Identity Vs Role Confusion

According to Eric Erikson, identity vs role confusion is one of the psychosocial crisis that we all go through in life as we mature into adulthood. There are 8 stages of psychosocial crisis throughout our lives. If we are able to resolve all of our psychosocial crisis, we will emerge as a healthy individual with successful acquisition of basic virtues.

During teenage years, one of the psychosocial crisis involves identity vs role confusion. Teenagers will try to test the environment around her, the societal rules, the norms… trying to get a sense of their identity. Who am I? What sort of person am I? What do I identify with? 

According to Erikson, “the adolescent mind is essentially a mind or moratorium, a psychosocial stage between childhood and adulthood, and between the morality learned by the child, and the ethics to be developed by the adult.”

When you are still in the throes of the psychosocial crisis of identity vs role confusion, how is it sensible to make a permanent decision of changing your gender? How is it even ethical for us to support that as a doctor?

But apparently, that’s what some people in the Western world did. 

I recommend that you read the article above yourself  H.E.R.E

How aggressive and unethical the LGBTQ+ movement can be in gambling the future of innocent children for the sake of ensuring that their cult (really!) will always have some supporters.

Clinicians involved had reported their worries that some patients were referred to a gender transitioning pathway too quickly. Like I said, you haven’t even resolved your psychosocial conflict of identity vs role confusion, and yet you are already referring these children (CHILDREN, guys!) to this clinic. Some of  them were given puberty blockers, the long term side-effects of which are only very little known!

What are puberty blockers?

Puberty blockers stop a young person’s body developing breasts, periods, facial hair or a deeper voice.

Recently updated NHS guidance on puberty blockers acknowledges that little is known about their long-term effects, or what impact they might have on children’s brains and bones.

I find this very alarming! Imagine the psychological damage that they will face if these children grow up regretting their decision! In fact, someone had already sued the NHS gender clinic over this matter once they have become an adult. You can read about it H.E.R.E

In a world when most people want everything natural and vegan and cruelty-free, how do you reconcile approving such a treatment to children?! The funny thing is even so-called vegan people are championing the propaganda of LGBTQ+ movement. And I am feeling rather confused here… how do you utilize your mind? Don’t you ever feel unsettled by the cognitive dissonance that you are operating under? Whatever you put on your skin in terms of skincare and make-up products, you are so proud of how vegan you are being! But when it comes to hormonal and surgical treatment in order to change your appearance into looking like the other gender, suddenly you change your stand 180 degrees by saying “Oh we should support self-expression and this is all about being true to yourself about who you really are…. yadda yadda yadda…”

These are all mumbo jumbo wishy-washy stuff that do not stand critical analysis! It is nauseating! At last when they could no longer justify their stands, they would fall back to the magic word that in their opinion will bring victory to any argument. Freedom! Freedom is that magical word.

“It is their freedom to do what they feel is right.” (Jawapan budak-budak yang tak menggunakan akal kan? Bila kita tanya budak-budak nakal “Kenapa buat macam tu?”. Budak-budak akan cakap “Eh suka hatilah.” Wow… amazing use of your reasoning, there! Situasi yang sama tengah berlaku when it comes to reasoning with LGBTQ+ people.)

“Sure…. no one is denying your freedom to do anything stupid. We are just pointing out how senseless and stupid and unhealthy and wrong it is. That’s all.”

Whatever it is, one thing is clear. I will not do or support what is wrong. 

But then some people say, “How do you know what is wrong and right?”

I would answer that by saying “I have my own system, i.e my religion, to know what’s wrong and what’s right. Do YOU have a system?”

And then they would say, “How do you know your system is right?”

I would then say “Gosh, I don’t know. Maybe the same way you know your system is right. That is, if you have one.”

The funny thing is some people have a system of ‘not having a system’ and therefore they think  that people who do have a system is being oppressed within the system. *shakes head*

So they loudly proclaimed that they are free people who can do whatever they want without being bound by the rules of any religion. But wow… they too end up being oppressed by their own freedom when they made a wrong choice in life after refusing to follow any type of guidance or system… they are lost because they don’t have any system or criteria to measure there life decision upon… and they don’t even realize it. 

Look at the issue of the child gender clinic, and  tell me how this is not oppression at its most sickening level! How could you ALLOW this to happen to children whose psychosocial stages are not yet resolved to be able to make this decision?

Try and justify this! If you can. 

The Amazing J.K Rowling

You guys probably know that I grew up reading Harry Potter books and watching all the films adaptation of the Harry Potter series. I have always been amazed by the genius creativity displayed by J.K Rowling in the writing of her Harry Potter series.

So recently, it came to my attention that J.K Rowling was slammed by LGBTQ+ activists all around the world for allegedly being transphobic when she took issue with an article that used the term “people who menstruate” instead of using the term “women”.

She tweeted : ‘I’m sure there used to be a word for those people. Someone help me out. Wumben?Wimpund? Woomud?’

Basically she was just saying that we should call women as women. Because people who menstruate are women! So why did this article have to use the term “people who menstruate”? And I find myself agreeing with her on this. LGBTQ+ people and supporters are getting more and more ridiculous over the years! They are SO insecure about their gender identity to the point that they just NEED to force other people to agree to change universally accepted and precise terms like ‘women’ into a more vague, non-precise terms like “people who menstruate”. And when we call them out on this ridiculousness, suddenly we are the transphobic ones?

Give me a break!

Even Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson turned their backs on J.K Rowling for saying what is after all, a mere fact. That women menstruate… so why should we use the term “people who menstruate” instead of saying the word women!

I find J.K Rowling as quite brave for saying what she really thinks, knowing how ‘popular’ and ‘powerful’ the LGBTQ+ movement is in the West. Luckily, here in Malaysia, we do not allow them to overpower our society. Islam is the official religion of the country. And in Islam (and in fact in ALL Abrahamic religions and MOST other non-Abrahamic religions) LGBTQ+ are considered as an aberration and adopting that identity is a sin.

Sure, the LGBTQ+ people may say “I don’t follow your religion. Why are you imposing your opinion on me.”

But I can also say “I don’t follow your opinion too. But you are forcing it on me and demanding for policy changes in the society that would affect my life. You can believe in your lifestyle and do whatever you like. Tak teringin pun nak mengintip apa kau buat di belakang pintu. But you! Why do you want to force me to approve of you? Why need my approval? Why need the society’s approval? Why do you advocate for change of policies and laws in the society? When you want to change policies and laws and start to advocate for your movement, OF COURSE you will have to face counter-propagation and counter-advocation! So, don’t play victim here. Sepanjang kehidupan di dunia ini, people have gone to WAR to fight for ideologies…. be it imperialism, communism, democracy, Zionism, Christianity, Islam! Unfortunately, that is the life of this world! So tak payah buat terkejut yang orang menentang kau. Kami pun ada ideologi kami! If you propagate, we propagate too! May the best propagator win!”

Look, you can do whatever you like behind closed doors. You can dress however you like and I would not even bat an eyelash. But you do NOT get to force me to say that what you do is right! No one can force me to approve what I don’t approve. I have my own stand and my own opinion, khalas! Just like you want to advocate for your point of views, I too have the rights to advocate for mine. If you call me transphobic, I will call you Islamophobic. Because my views are Islamic in nature. So if criticizing your opinion makes me transphobic/homophobic, then criticizing me will make you Islamophobic or even anti-semitic (because all semitic religions are against LGBTQ+). But frankly speaking, rather than bypassing the reasoning of our brain by labelling people as transphobic/homophobic/Islamophobic/anti-semitic etc etc, let’s just have an honest to goodness factual, scientific discussion. Does LGBTQ+ stand/lifestyle/opinions make sense scientifically, philosophically, morally, psychologically? Talk about that! And stop labelling people who criticize your points!

“We are not trying to cause trouble. We just want to live our life in peace.” says the LGBTQ+ person.

Nope! Living your life in peace is not the only aim you have here. Otherwise, we all would have gone on with our lives and not pay any attention to you. Don’t pretend that all you want is to live your life with your loved ones in peace! Your actions speak louder than words.

The truth is… you wanted to force the society to change established policies and laws for you! As though you are the only one with rights! That’s why people are angry! Hospital administrators had to think about whether or not we need to set a separate ward for you because you cannot be placed in a male ward or a female ward. If you are in prison, the prison administrator don’t know where to place you… female or male prison. There was the public toilet issue we need to think about…. whether we need a separate LGBTQ+ public toilet because neither genders are comfortable to have you in their toilets! Why should THEY sacrifice their sense of comfort and safety just so you can choose which toilet you feel like going? Are their rights lesser than yours? In championing equality for one group (the LGBTQ+ group), you go overboard by discriminating the other group!

In sports, women are unfairly treated when they have to compete with trans-women who are biologically stronger to them with greater muscle mass! But they could not voice out their concerns because the LGBTQ+ movement are more powerful than their small voice in the West! How is this fair and just? How about creating a third sport category now so that LGBTQ+ people can compete with one another fairly… hmmm? But no…it would not be fair either to simply create a third category because transwomen need their own category and transmen also need their own category. So for all sport events we should have four gender categories: men, women, transmen and transwomen. Ok? But oh no… that would hurt their feelings too. “I identify as a woman! Why do you need to put me in other categories! I told you I am a woman! According to Emma Watson, trans people are who they say they are. So if I say I am a woman, then I am a woman. Why are you putting me in a different category than other women! I am a woman just like any other woman!” *sigh*

Facts are facts regardless of your feelings, si? But no…tak puas hati lagi dengan fakta! They then recruited loud, influential Hollywood celebrities to advocate for them. Like Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson.

Emma Watson can get away saying nonsensical stuff such as “Trans people are who they say they are…”

Wow… so the truth can be determined by whatever anyone says now, is it? How ridiculous is that? Just because you say something, it doesn’t make it true! If I say I am a man, it doesn’t automatically change my genetic make-up and I wouldn’t suddenly grow a male genitalia! Please have some sense when you make your statement.

Hollywood celebrities are very influential people and they have the power to shape the opinion of the public. But does their support for LGBTQ+ community make sense and free from any self-serving bias or conflict of interests?

Think about it! Of course the celebrities would advocate for LGBTQ+ causes…. the whole industry are full with LGBTQ+ people. The actors/ actresses/ make-up artists/designers/models…. most of them are among LGBTQ+ people or sympathetic to their causes. When you are part of that environment, it is a matter of your own career survival to support it! Even if you think their stand does not make sense but knowing that you are going to closely work with them in advancing your career, of course you would not go against the tide! And now their voice becomes the influential one even though it makes no sense!

The religious, conservative voice has not always been a small voice. Something had happened, FIRST. And that something was the silence of the majority when the movement of LGBTQ+ people were first gaining momentum. You did not control the fire before it engulfed the forest of your society. You did NOT propagate for the truth when you had the chance! You were too scared that other people would label you as ‘backward, transphobic, dumb over-religious Christians’ etc etc. And so you kept your silence. You thought “Well, let them do whatever they want because it would not affect me at all.” You didn’t realize that when they grew in numbers they would start demanding for their rights that would eventually oppress your own rights. But then you woke up… and suddenly LGBTQ+ rights overpowered your own rights! By the time you realized it, it was too late.

And all because religious, conservative people in the West were too timid and passive and complacent; they did not do their best to speak up for the truth when they had the chance.

This hopefully will NEVER happen in Muslim-majority countries. Because compared to Christians in the West, Muslims are MORE practicing. That is a fact. Christianity may be the number one religion in terms of numbers. But in terms of practicing, most Muslims are more practicing of their religion and we follow the tenets of our Quran. Most of my Australian friends are cultural Christians….rather than religious Christians. They celebrate Christmas and occasionally go to Church especially for weddings and baptism but most of them do not even know their whole Bible cover to cover. Yes, they are cultural Christians rather than religious Christians!

Whereas most Muslims practice beyond the superficial aspects of having a Muslim name or eating halal food or celebrating Eid. We pray 5 times a day… some of us even offer more non-obligatory prayers in between. That is a lifetime commitment until the day we die. That is serious love and serious faith, folks. Most of us have read the Quran cover to cover MULTIPLE TIMES throughout our lives and we knew the message in the Quran. A practicing Muslim would NEVER say “Yeah… I don’t really have an opinion about LGBTQ+. I don’t really care.” trying to give a safe politically-correct answer to anyone who asks. Because the Quran is VERY clear about this and a practicing Muslim would never go against what the Quran says!

But some of my Australian friends who claim that they are Christians can actually support LGBTQ+ people by saying “God is loving!” or they would say “The Bible is an ancient document. Some of the verses can be interpreted differently. I am sure God loves everyone regardless of which gender they identify with.”. (Seriously, what is this? Please note that MOST religious Christians who are strict and faithful would NEVER support LGBTQ+ too. Only the cultural Christians can be found giving wishy washy statement like this. Unfortunately, in the West, even the religious Christians were subdued by the LGBTQ+movement. The policies and laws of their countries have now totally changed because when the religious Christians had the chance, they did NOT counter-propagate and counter-narrate!) My questions to these cultural Christians are, “What… when God revealed the Bible in the ancient time did He not know the future… that there would be a group of LGBTQ+ people in this world? As an All-knowing God, wouldn’t He have known about the future existence of LGBTQ+ people and so would tailor the laws in the scripture to include them if He wanted to show his approval of them? But no… he made the law clear against homosexuality anyway, regardless of His all-encompassing knowledge about the future! So maybe, the law REALLY is clear and is supposed to be upheld for ALL time. You think God changes His laws and commandments with time? Did you receive a new revised version of the Bible from God that includes approval of LGBTQ+ people? Do you have any evidence regarding that? So if you don’t, why did you assume that just because God is loving, then LGBTQ+ is approved in your religion and the law has changed now? Perhaps it is EXACTLY because God is loving that He had made the laws clear for you in order to protect you and your society. But you choose to create grey areas out of something clear in order to justify your own conflict of interests and your lust! And then you talk about a loving God. A loving and compassionate God would also uphold justice based on the clear laws that He had revealed. Because there is no compassion without justice.”

There is NO COMPASSION without justice. Is it just that women must compete with transwomen in sports? Is it fair that religious conservative women that make up the majority of the society must always wear tudung and cover their aurat when a transwoman are placed in their ward?

My liberal friend had said “She is already a woman. She is not interested to look at your hair while in the ward! Please get over yourself. Poor them. They are just trying to be who they are.”

I was like, “First of all, he is not a woman biologically and genetically no matter what you said. That is just factual and biological. Please think like a doctor that you are. Secondly, we don’t cover ourselves because of anyone’s possible interest of looking at our hair or our body. We wear modest clothing because God asks us to do so. Even in front of a eunuch, we will cover ourselves to obey God. If you don’t believe in God, that’s okay… I don’t need you to believe what I believe. But you need to understand that the reality is… the policies and laws of the country will follow the religious sentiments of the majority. You can go to any country and you will find that the laws and policies of that country will be tailored to suit the culture of the majority. And so if we don’t fit in that country, the practical option is to get out of that country. Of course, you can try to advocate for change of laws in that country…. which would involve propagating to the people in that country to support your cause and inducing the people in that country to call their MPs to fight for your cause in the parliament so that the law would change in your favour. Yes… that’s what you are trying to do, I know. But do NOT expect other people to simply allow you to do that without them fighting back… and suddenly you want to manipulate the issue and cry as though you are a victim of transphobic/homophobic people. You want to change the law and influence public policies… be prepared to fight like an adult! Not like a cry baby! Debate us point by point instead of labelling us transphobic/homophobic and whatnots. When it comes to the place of trans people in a Muslim-majority society in wards/prisons/public toilets/sport events, it is not right for you to insist that we change our ways and belief system, (which happen to be the majority’s ways and belief system) in order to accommodate the feelings of a minority trans-women or trans-men who insist that they deserve to force their presence on us in gender-specific settings. If you are just going about doing your business without asking for official recognition or policy change, we would have let you be! But now, the game has changed because you decided to be loud and demanding! It is democratically wrong to sacrifice the rights of the majority for the sake of a minority. Until you can successfully propagate for the majority to support you and cause the law to change in your favour, you cannot force us to accept your view that trans people can be in our wards/prisons/public toilets just because they now identify themselves as the opposite gender. Trans women belong in male wards. And trans men belong in female wards. We respect your rights. But your rights are limited by other people’s rights based on the laws and policies of our country.”

Unfortunately in Malaysia, only Islam is doing the counter-propagating work against this moral sickness. Why? I feel like this is the time for us to have inter-faith cooperation to present a unified voice against LGBTQ+ stance. Where are the devout Christians of this country? Why aren’t you guys speaking up? Where are the devout Buddhist, Hindus and Sikh? Why are you guys silent? We have the weight of biological facts, and religious and moral and cultural tradition behind us and yet the silence is deafening! Why?! Are you guys so scared to be labeled backward? Takut terkena tempias ‘the dumb race’ like the Malays asyik kena just because we are much more willing to put ourselves out there and speak up about our shared truth?

Most religions in this world have the same values. But why are you guys not speaking up too?

Why do other religious leaders do not speak up when our shared values are being challenged? Brother Firdaus Wong questioned this to other religious leaders in this video.

Our Stand As A Doctor

In psychiatry, I have very clear ideas on how I will treat LGBTQ+ people in the context of Malaysia.

When they come to me, these are what I generally will do:

  1. Get a good history of the underlying mental illness (depression/anxiety/psychosis etc etc) that they presented with and treat them the way I treat any heterosexual cis-gender patients.
  2. If their LGBTQ+ lifestyle is in any way influencing the severity of their underlying mental illness, again I need to get a good gender history. Is it homosexuality without any element of gender dysphoria? Is it transsexualism? Is it dual role transvestism? Is it fetishistic transvestism?
  3. Ask them: do they want to talk about it?
  4. Take blood investigations including hormone blood tests.
  5. Continue to give the usual bio-psycho-social-spiritual model of treatment that they should get.

But what I will NOT do is voicing my approval of their lifestyle and sexual inclination. In our consultation with our patients, there is never any need for us to talk about our own belief system with the patient.

“But what if the patient asks you about what you think of his LGBTQ+ lifestyle?”

Well, I will simply ask the patient “Why do you want to know what I think about your LGBTQ+ lifestyle?” And we will manoeuvre and control the consultation from there.

I don’t have to answer such a question from my patient (or from anyone, if I don’t want to). The therapy session is about the patient, not about me. I am NOT supposed to talk about what I think about anything in the therapy session. Boundaries must be there between me and my patient. I will simply steer the consultation into analyzing why does she/he want to know about what I think? Is it because in general, they always want people’s approval in everything they do and would become dysphoric when people don’t approve of them? I will analyze whether or not the patient’s need for society’s approval is the root cause of his/her dysphoric mood. And I will ask the patient questions that will help them understand their own feelings by challenging their cognitive distortions“If you really believe that LGBTQ+ lifestyle is right for you, why should you care about what other people think? Is it realistic to expect others to approve of your lifestyle if they don’t? Is it wise to put other people’s approval or your therapist’s approval of your lifestyle as a condition to your happiness and satisfaction in life? If your happiness is dependent on other people approving your choices in life, then it will be difficult for you to be happy. No one can agree with you 100% in all matters, 100% of the time. And you need to be okay with that. Otherwise, it will be difficult for you to be happy.”

See? As a doctor, there is NO NEED for me to talk about my belief system with any of my LGBTQ+ patients. The therapy session is not about me. It is about them! So as a therapist, we stick to getting them to talk about them! Not about us!

“But what if they ask your opinion about gender reassignment surgery?”

Again, I will not talk about my opinion. I will present them with the technical facts of the matter. The law in Malaysia is not in my control and if they have any issue with the law of the country, they can speak to their MPs or their lawyers. And with regards to gender reassignment surgery, I will tell them that even in the Western countries, people will have to live as the opposite gender for at least two years before any gender reassignment surgery will be performed. I will talk about the side effects of hormonal therapy and the permanent implication of the gender reassignment surgery. My opinion does not need to enter the picture here. I will present them with the facts and they can do with the facts whatever they like.

But again, there will NEVER be a time when I will EVER indicate my approval for gender reassignment surgery. Because as a Muslim, I DO NOT BELIEVE it is right and I am always going to be a Muslim first before I am a doctor. In my religion saying something that is wrong in Islam as right can cause me to be a murtad! And I rather give up my job than giving up being a Muslim. (This is because unlike other religions, Islam has a fail-safe mechanism of protecting the values of the religion. Islam protects us from deviating from the truth by asking us: Do you want society’s approval or do you want to become a Muslim? Do you want to submit to society’s pressure or do you want to submit to God and be a Muslim? If you want to be a Muslim, speak up for the truth regardless of what the society says. So as a Muslim, we don’t have a choice of pretending that we approve something that is against the values of the religion. Because it will cause us to be a murtad if we say something that is wrong in the religion as right, or vice versa. We have to speak the truth of our religious values and not give in to societal pressure if we want to remain a Muslim.)

If there ever come a time when (God forbid!) LGBTQ+ people become so powerful in Malaysia (like in the West) that they can force Muslim doctors to approve of their lifestyle or else our license to practice will be revoked, I would rather give up my career than renouncing the values of my religion! But heck, I won’t do it without a fight first!

In my professional life, I am a doctor who keep my religious opinion to myself when dealing with my patients. Because like I said, the therapy session is about them! Not about me! But in my personal life, in my blog, in my social media, I am always going to be a Muslim first and then a Malaysian and lastly a doctor. (Being a doctor is not the most important or worthy aspect of my life. And frankly speaking, if any doctor feels like his/her career is the most worthy aspect of his/her life ABOVE ANYTHING ELSE, that is kind of sad, really!) And as a Muslim and as a Malaysian, I reserve my rights to speak up for the truth as I see it. LGBTQ+ people are not the only ones with freedom of speech. In fact, the law in Malaysia STILL says that homosexuality act is illegal and a crime. So, my point of view is perfectly in line with the law of the country.

If any of you have any issue with the law of the country, take it up with your MPs and your lawyers. And go on and propagate for your causes. But you will be disappointed if you expect that people will simply fall in line to agree with you. Everyone and every group has their own agenda and all of us will fight for our respective causes. So stop playing the victim card when you don’t have facts on your side! Fight like an adult! Not like a cry baby who expects people to change their opinions or sugarcoat facts and reality just so their feelings won’t be hurt! J.K Rowling has every right to state her opinion that the term “women” are more appropriate than the term “people who menstruate”, so if you are hurt by her opinion, maybe you should try to develop some maturity and simply agree to disagree without resorting to labelling her.

Ideological wars have been going on since time immemorial. And it will never stop till the end of time.

Book of the Month

The book I am excited to write a review about is The Persuaders: The Hidden Industry That Wants To Change Your Mind authored by James Garvey.

After reading this book, I was blown away by so many things I didn’t know about how our reality perception can be manipulated by PR firms and advertisement companies. I will never look at any statement, advertisement, campaign and propaganda in the same way again.

I have always been a pretty skeptical person especially when I am faced with a new thought or a new idea or a new philosophy. But I am also pretty skeptical of anything traditional or conservative that does not have any evidence for it too. (I have mentioned before that I could insist to have bihun goreng and Coca-Cola rather than pulut kuning and air sirap for my khatam Quran ceremony hahha. If there is no logical or moral basis for a certain tradition, I have no problem asserting my freedom of choice or opinion). So I am neither a conservative nor a liberal. I am a realist, I think. I just want to know the facts, first. I just want to know the truth. I guard my mind jealously against any new philosophical idea because I don’t want to be misled in life. All new ideas must be analyzed and filtered very carefully before I will integrate them officially into my life philosophy or my worldview. Once they have been integrated into my life philosophy and my worldview, very rarely do I change my mind. Win my mind with facts and reasoning… then you will get me to behave according to the convincing facts and ideas that you have presented.

I rarely make impulsive decision or an impromptu purchase. I will NOT do something until I have thoroughly weighed the pros and cons of doing something. At times, this characteristic trait that I have can be pretty troublesome because I will be caught in a situation of decision paralysis. In things that matter, I want to know everything or almost everything before I feel like I can make an informed decision.

It takes a LOT for a person to be able to change my mind about anything. Because before I have come to a decision on any particular topic in the first place, I had thought long and hard about it. And if you can change my mind after that, wow… you either must be very good at facts manipulation or you must have spoken a compelling truth that left me with no choice but to submit to the truth!

In this book, I learned that once upon a time, people placed a lot of emphasis on reasoning and logical thinking. It was a time when advertisement industry and PR firms were not yet around. The intellectual culture, and the effect of the Renaissance enlightenment were a dominant presence back then and very profoundly felt. People organized debates in clubs all over the country (in the UK) to examine facts and contexts of any issue. Debates became a source of entertainment in pubs/salons at that time (circa 1700s). People cultivated oratory skills and nurtured their intellect the way our people currently cultivate superficial beauty and hedonistic lifestyle.

But around the early 1900s… something changed. We found out that we can influence people faster and more effectively by bypassing their brain and manipulating their psychology. It started around the time when the tobacco industry wanted to sell cigarettes to women. At that time, only men smoked tobacco and for women to smoke in public was taboo. A PR firm was hired to create a campaign for getting women to smoke. They associated the act of public smoking by women with the suffragette movement of women’s equal rights and freedom. They hired a lot of young women to light “the torch of freedom” (the cigarette was the torch and lighting it symbolised freedom) while walking on Fifth Avenue on Easter Sunday.

(When you think logically, how does smoking in public is in any way connected to fighting for women’s freedom? If you REALLY want to fight for freedom of women, why light a cigarette? Why not propagate using facts and call your MPs to fight for your cause in the parliament and distribute flyers to the public?)

Initially the sales of cigarettes among women were very small. But after they “SYMBOLIZED” cigarettes with women’s freedom, the sales of cigarettes among women rose exponentially. Suddenly women who felt they were oppressed chose to light a cigarette thinking they were exercising their freedom of choice without knowing that they were also damaging their lungs in the process! The tobacco companies happily laughed their way to the bank!

The same strategy is employed until now. That is the basis of celebrity endorsement of any product. If the celebrity is beautiful and famous, then of course the product that she/he endorses will be good too, people think. Without looking at any ingredient or analysing the process of how the product is made, people simply buy the products. Not because they know all the facts about the product… but because they have associated the beauty of the celebrity with the product.

By associating certain generally good concept like love/freedom/justice/empowerment with LGBTQ+ people (instead of associating it with promiscuity or hedonism, for example), a stronger support could be garnered for the LGBTQ+ causes. So you will find a lot of slogans saying things like “It’s all about love. It’s about inclusivity. It’s about tolerance. It’s about freedom to love anyone we want.” Suddenly, whatever biological and scientific facts are thrown out of the window. Let alone moral consideration and societal norms! Their psychology has been tricked into thinking that something is good/right/okay when it is (manipulatively) associated with universally-approved concept like love/freedom/justice/empowerment. (This is Pavlovian application at its best. The dog no longer salivated to the food… but to the bell that signified the arrival of the food… even when the food did not arrive in the end.)

When it comes to product marketing, when you associate your brand with prestige and elegance and wealth, people will buy your product more. Remember the Dunhill slogan “Dunhill… gaya, mutu, keunggulan.” Hahha. (Think about it logically? Dunhill is just a name for a brand. Whether or not Dunhill embodied ‘gaya, mutu, keunggulan’ was never an established fact. The advertisement company simply create that association for the consumers… and the consumers flock to it thinking that they too will have those qualities of gaya, mutu, keunggulan when using any Dunhill product. In the end, it’s all just associations and slogans!) Now advertisement is no longer about promoting your products in a factual manner … but by giving your products the right kind of symbolism, slogans and association. And they keep repeating the slogans, symbolisms, and associations ad nauseum, ad infinitum.

Take the dUCk hijabs, for example. Even if the customers can see that the pattern of the hijab is not that great and the material is not supposed to be this pricey, but they still buy the product at such an exorbitant price just because they have associated the brand with what they aspire to become in terms of wealth, elegance and prestige. So now advertisement is all about using celebrities, and associating certain symbols to the product. They bypass your reasoning and your cognition and instead appeal to your unconscious psychological longing for love/freedom/justice/wealth/ prestige.

And the amazing thing is, it works!

Because apparently, reasoning with people won’t change their minds, according to this book. Or even if reasoning does change people’s minds, the route to that is longer and harder and the result is not always guaranteed. How many times have we debated a certain issue back and forth with one another only to end up sticking to our original stance anyway? So these days, most persuaders have discarded the method of appealing to your reason. Instead they use symbolism, associations, emotionalism…. and they find that many people are willing to let their brains be hijacked unresistingly.

Let’s associate the wearing of hijab by Muslim women as oppression instead of as a sign of devotion to God and religion.

Want oil from Iraq? Let’s create a story of how Saddam Hussein was a bad dictator and how the American people were going to free the people of Iraq from his dictatorship. Saddam is associated with everything bad. American soldiers are associated with being saviors and heroes! (When actually during the reign of Saddam Hussein the people of Iraq were more prosperous than now. )

Let’s associate religious people with stupidity and irrationality even though there are many religious scientists all over the world who know why they believe what they believe and that it makes more scientific sense to believe that the world is created by God than to believe that the world comes from nothing.

Let’s be like Emma Watson and repeatedly say that transwomen are women and transmen are men and “trans people are just who they say they are”. Because studies have shown that if you repeat a lie enough times, people start to believe it! What a scary world we are living in, don’t you think?

This book also has taught me how the social media can be used to manipulate our perception and swing votes during election or referendum like Brexit!

We are living in a world that makes it hard for us to know what to believe anymore.

Have you heard about Cambridge Analytica? It was a political consulting firm that used data mining from social media like Facebook to influence the US 2016 election. When the scandal was discovered, all hell broke loose. You can read all about it from Wikipedia ‘Facebook-Cambridge Analytica Data Scandal’. And if you have Netflix, I do recommend for you to watch the documentary by the title of The Great Hack! You will be blown away at how our perception of the reality can be manipulated by the social media when an invisible entity is controlling what we see in our newsfeed.

A documentary in Netflix! Do check it out, guys!

So, I really recommend you guys to read this book and I promise you that you will be more conscious of how your brain is being manipulated at the end of the book!

I give this book 4.75 stars out of 5! I love it!

I was so lucky that I got this book at a Blockbuster price of RM18 only! It was originally sold at a price of more than RM50. That is the advantage of having a regular habit of going to bookstores. You get to grab the best books at the best prices.

Until next time, my dear readers. Much love and may Allah bless all of us with His guidance in finding the truth and may Allah give us strength to speak up for the truth that we had painstakingly found.

Celebrating Eid During The Covid-19 Pandemic

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Eid Mubarak to all Muslims in the world. May Allah accept all the good deeds from us and from you.

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Dear readers,

I am so blessed and so lucky that I was able to celebrate Eid at my parents’ house this year even though we are still under the conditional movement control order. There was a time, not so long ago that I thought I would not be able to come back to Alor Setar for Eid and might need to remain in Johor Bahru where I was doing my clinical attachment. Alhamdulillah, things worked out quite beautifully in the end, the details of which I wouldn’t bother you guys with. But it did involve going to the police station and getting the head of the police station to sign a letter of approval saying that I had a valid reason to come back home to Alor Setar. So I was able to make the journey home without much trouble once I had obtained the police’s approval. I made the journey on the very last day of Gerak Malaysia which was on the 10th of May 2020, on Sunday.

Eid while dealing with Covid is a unique experience that hopefully will never be repeated in our lifetime.

So, I thought it would be nice to just have a record of how the Muslims celebrate Eid with Covid-19 in our midst. If this is something you are curious to know, keep on reading. Otherwise, please do something more productive with your time as what I am going to write below is just my own personal experience and I am not going to be imparting any kind of thoughts or opinions on any current issues or any matter related to medicine or psychiatry. I know some of you who read my blog are medical students or HOs or MOs… and you are busy people who lead busy life. It is very important to prioritize in how we spend our time.

So, now that I have written that disclaimer, proceed at your own risk. LOL

Breaking Fast With Mom’s Delicious Cooking

Upon arriving in Alor Setar, I did self-quarantine in my own house before seeing my own parents and other family members (because I came from JB which used to be a red zone and Alor Setar was a green zone at that time. Now sadly, Alor Star is no longer a green zone.) It is really convenient that my parents and I, even though we live in the same town, keep separate household. It comes in handy during the time of pandemic because there will be times when my job as a healthcare worker might involve me having to limit contact with my parents and the rest of the family members, so as not to put them at risk. But my mom, being a loving mother that she is, always came over to send me food for iftaar ever since I got back to Alor Setar. (Ah… one of the best reason to be in my hometown when there were still some days left of Ramadhan was the opportunity to break my fast with my mom’s delicious cooking. Seriously, after staying in a nursing hostel for 6 months when I was in JB, I have had enough of Grab food.  I actually missed doing my own cooking, would you believe it? I don’t even LIKE to cook most of the time.)

Being an adult who is still able to enjoy the presence and the support of her mother and father during this trying time of Covid-19 Pandemic is one of the many blessings I have in my life. There were many times when I had found myself wondering how do other people cope without their parents support? Does anyone ever get used to losing their parents even  though they are already an adult? Alhamdulillah, thank you Allah, for still allowing me the blessing of having my parents with me.

In The Memory of My Tok Wan…

One of the many things I did after being done with self-quarantine was visiting the grave of my paternal grandfather… my Tok Wan. Heartbreakingly, I lost my Tok Wan while I was in JB in the first few days of Movement Control Order. He passed away on Friday afternoon, 20th of March 2020.

I was not able to pay my last respect to him and most of my siblings were also not around at that time and could not cross borders. The fact that my father had to hasten the funeral because of the Covid-19 pandemic made it impossible for me to reach home in time for the funeral to pay my last respect. I checked out various airlines websites, and I found out that even if I could make the arrangement to travel home, the funeral would be over before I could even board the plane. He was buried on the very same day after the Isya’ prayer.

I will always remember him in all my prayers.

I have always known that I was his favourite grandchild. Because he made it so obvious that all my siblings could not fail to notice it, even when we were just young kids. Initially when they first accused me of being the favourite, I had denied it because I felt like he surely loved us all the same. But after some time, we all accepted it as a fact and I didn’t bother denying it anymore hahaha.

He bought me  a piece of gold jewellery to reward me for my UPSR result… he never bought any of my siblings any present for their exam results even though they scored straight As too. He never asked my father where my other siblings were if they didn’t turn up to his house. But if I didn’t turn up to his house (well, I was abroad for my medical study and could not make it home for Raya or for some family events sometimes) he would notice and ask about me. It was me that my parents would ask to persuade my grandfather to be compliant to all his medication. It was me who would teach my grandfather how to use his puffer and when I noticed he could not use his puffer properly I then convinced him to use a spacer with his puffer.

With my parents, none of us knew which one of us is the favourite. We could speculate, but we couldn’t tell for sure, as our parents would treat us mostly the same, and any variations in their treatment of us was not obvious Hahah. I would say my Kak Long is the favourite but she would deny it and cite some other occasions and references in which it appeared as though it was I, or Wani or Izati or Alida who were the favourite. Really, we have no idea who is the favourite child and it remains a mystery for us until now.

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With my Tok Wan

But with my grandfather, I was clearly the preferred granddaughter. I think my grandfather loved me best because I had once stayed at his house for a few weeks of school holiday when I was 7 years old. None of my siblings wanted to spend their holiday in a kampung at that time. But as a child, I was fascinated by the rubber trees, the rubber fruits and the process of turning the rubber liquid into rubber sheets that I didn’t mind being the only one spending the holiday with my paternal grandparents without the rest of my siblings. I made some friends in the kampung too and I was spoiled rotten by the kids in the kampung because I was this young city girl who was having a vacation in a kampung (not that Alor Setar is REALLY a city haha… but compared to Baling, of course lah! Haha). They gave up their hammock for me whenever I wanted to sit on that hammock, I still remember. After awhile, I felt like that hammock was mine and it was my due to sit on it whenever I felt like it. And they allowed it too. Hahha. I was so bad but they were so nice to me; perhaps because I was the youngest among them. I had a great time in my grandfather’s house even though it was a modest house in the middle of a huge rubber estate.  Until now, I love being amidst a lot of trees and quiet nature … one of the reasons I love hiking was because there were a lot of trees. It was calming to my mind to be in nature and greeneries.

I was really sad that I could not be with him in his last moments. This wasn’t how I envision his passing would be. I wasn’t able to write about this a few months ago when I was still dealing with the grief. But now that I have visited his grave and paid my respect, I feel like writing a tribute about him is how I properly put a closure to this. He was the last grandparent we had…. for a long time, he was  the ONLY grandparent we had (because my other grandparents on my mom’s side had passed away since we were little kids).

And with his passing, I have no grandparents left.

I visited his grave a few days before Eid. A lot of Malays like to visit the graves of their loved ones on the day of Eid itself. Actually, this is not advisable and very much discouraged in Islam. Eid is the day of happiness and victory. It is SUNNAH to be happy on the day of Eid. And therefore I made it a point to NOT visit his grave during Eid and wanted to do it before Eid. All sadness must end with happiness. Eid is for us  to be happy and jovial. Not for us to be sad and disheartened.

But this was our first Eid without our grandfather.

May Allah forgive the sins of my grandfather and bless his soul with mercy and love. And may Allah grant him an abode in paradise. Amiin, Ya Rabb.

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إنَّا ِللهِ وإنَّا إلَيْهِ رَاجِعُوْن  *Innalillahi wa inna ilaihi raji’un*
اللَّهُمَّ اغْفِرْ لَهُ وَارْحَمْهُ وَعَافِهِ وَاعْفُ عَنْهُ  *“Allahumma firlahu warhamhu wa`afihi wa`fu`anhu”*

First Day of Eid : The Eid Prayer

As you guys well know, because of the conditional MCO, congregational Eid prayer in the mosque was banned and the Muslims were encouraged to pray at home with their family members.

For Eid, there were only my parents, and the three middle sisters (me, Izati and Alida) as well as my two brother-in-laws (Izati and Alida’s husbands) and Alida’s three children (Ammar, Arissa and Alana) who would be celebrating together. The eldest and the youngest sister were not around as they could not cross the state borders to balik kampung (Kak Long and Wani, you were in our thoughts as we were eating ketupat, rendang and nasi arab. But never fear, our appetite was not affected by your absence regardless of how much we DO miss you. Heheh)

My father is not used to leading any congregational prayer. I think he has some form of performance anxiety about any kind of public speaking or public performance haha. So, he volunteered to perform the post-prayer doa, instead. Zul (Izati’s husband) also refused to lead the congregational prayer and volunteered to read out the khutbah (religious preaching after prayer) instead. So, it was left to Fairuz (Alida’s husband) to lead the congregational prayer because he was the last one to arrive at our makeshift praying area and did not yet volunteer for anything. So we told him that it was his job to lead the prayer because he was late. He was nervous but he did it. (Being late has a pretty dire consequence in the culture of my family. We are all pretty punctual people. But before Covid-19, none of the consequences involved having to be an Imam hahaha)

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But I must admit, it was really FUNNY having someone other than the usual and experienced Imam leading our prayer. We had to bite our lips and suck our cheeks hard to prevent ourselves from laughing hysterically during prayer. It was obvious that Fairuz was NOT used to leading a congregational prayer. It was the shortest Eid prayer I have ever had as Fairuz had only chosen very short Quranic surahs to recite LOL. Understandably, he was quite nervous for suddenly being given this responsibility just because he happened to arrive late at the place of prayer. Adeh.

And my dad’s recitation of the doa were not without some hitches and pauses too. My mom was red in the face as she tried not to burst out laughing. The khutbah however was not bad as it only required Zul to read the text off his handset but a real Imam would have performed it with more calibre, of course.

But all in all, we did it! We completed our Eid congregational prayer on our own well enough for the first time.

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Us praying…. Fairuz leading the congregational prayer, my dad and brother in law in the next row. At the back, from the left, there was me, Izati and my mom in our prayer clothing. Alida could not pray and was taking our picture while we were praying.

I was proud of the men in my family that they had stepped up and were able to perform the task of an imam, bilal and preacher eventually. Unfortunately, I think they knew that us the girls were finding it hard to control our amusement at the back. Alida who could not pray had taken our pictures while we were praying… and was it her voice I heard sputtering with suppressed mirth? She made it so difficult for me to NOT laugh while I was praying. So, I just smiled instead while simultaneously biting my lips hard. Needless to say, it was not a very khusyu’ prayer. Forgive me, oh Allah.

I remembered learning many years ago that smiling or grinning does not invalidate our prayer but I still experienced some niggling doubts about the validity of my prayer (because of my excessive smiling with intermittent lip biting while praying). So, afterwards, to REALLY calm myself down and settle the doubts, I googled whether or not smiling or grinning could invalidate your prayer. Haha. Good news! It didn’t.

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My instagram story Haha

 

First Day of Eid: The ‘Beraya’ Session

In our Malay culture we have what we call as ‘sesi beraya’ in which we would kiss the hands of our parents and hug them while asking for their forgiveness. And then we will repeat the same process with everyone in the family.

I am not entirely sure whether this practice is in the sunnah or not. I am pretty sure it wasn’t something that was specifically done for Eid during the Prophet’s time. I couldn’t recall learning anything like this in the sunnah. But I do know that during Eid, it is Sunnah to greet each other by saying Taqabbal Allahu Minna Wa Minkum (Meaning: May Allah accept the good deeds from us and from you). So that is how I always say in my Eid Mubarak wishes to others. It is easy pahala to follow this sunnah, right? Just say the words as it was said by the Prophet.

(However, the beraya session is not exactly against the Islamic practice. It is just cultural and it happens to be good practice to always ask forgiveness from each other. However please note that asking for forgiveness should be done whenever we make mistakes and this practice should not be allocated only for Raya time as it was not really done this way during the Prophet’s era. Allocating a specific practice for a specific time when it was NOT done by the Prophet could be construed as an innovation in the religion (Bid’ah) and it is very much frowned upon. Just to clarify that! Muslims should practice based on evidence.)

Below are the pictures of our Beraya session, which is also the time we would usually receive our Raya money. As they are my own family members and we have been living together for one week already, we do not practice social distancing with each other in this session because it would be pointless to do it. We have been inter-mingling so freely for many days already.

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And afterwards, we had our family Eid picture taken. We took many variations of the family picture… formal and cheeky ones of various poses were snapped in rapid succession. All of my sisters love posing in front of the camera and when I am with them I tend to get swept along by their excitement of having their pictures taken. I hardly take any picture or selfie when I am by myself but when I am with them I will play along and actually enjoy the process.

 

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As usual, me and the sisters had our indoor and outdoor photoshoot session. This is usually the time when we would miss the other sisters who could not make it for Raya the most. We didn’t miss them that much while eating our Eid food… but during photoshoot session, they were greatly and fondly remembered LOL. The outdoor photoshoot session has been our siblings’s peak Raya moments since we were small children, when we would pose in our new clothes pretending to be a model (without the height or the beauty. Hahah.) It is our siblings’ tradition! It is the pinnacle of what Raya fun is all about in the family.  (Well, this is what you get when all your siblings are girls… no brothers to put us in our place or check our sense of misplaced vanity Hahha.)

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Aggravatingly, my sisters did not think much of my Raya look this year (and ALSO any other year).

Look, I admit, I have never been much of a fashionista. Alida and Izati are the fashion enthusiast of the family. Whenever I shop for clothes, I prioritize comfort, practicality and economy over beauty or brands. If the outfit is TOO MUCH (too sparkly, too flowy, too difficult to iron) chances are I probably would not wear it again. So I won’t buy such an outfit. And as I am also not a frequent kenduri attendee and nor am I a social butterfly, I have no occasion to wear that kind of fancy clothes again. It just does NOT make sense to spend all that money for such an outfit which is only going to be worn once. Might as well I spend it on gold jewelries (I LOVE gold jewelries, guys…which are ALSO sparkly, but practical… something I can accessorize my plain clothes with. And it is an asset that can be easily liquidated should I be desperate for cash. So, I bought them as an investment… at least, that’s what I told myself. And I could never get enough #MamiJarumIsMe hahah. There was one time when I had a patient who was crying as she told me how her drug-addict husband had pawned off all her jewelries. In my mind I was like “Hmm…so, where did you hide his body after you murdered him?” LOL. Okay, just kidding. Please, don’t murder your husband if he took your gold jewelries. But heck, I would feel quite murderous towards those who stole my gold jewelries from me, guys. I am telling you!)

So below is the pic of my Raya #OOTD.

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Alida was like “Kak Ngah, why is it so grey? Why is it so dull? Will you at least wear a bright hijab with it? Wear a red hijab!” 

And then Izati said, “I thought it was cadar, at first.” (Cadar means bedsheet, guys! Bedsheet! How insulting!)

Can you believe my sisters? Hahah.

Of course I had no choice but to defend my outfit by telling them “Hey, this is in trend. My Raya concept is called monochromatic minimalist look. Google it. My sense of style is impeccable” Well, I had to say that, didn’t I? Cannot allow them to think I have a deficient sense of style.

They just rolled their eyes and continued to tell me how my sense of style is no style at all.  The nerve!

Sadly, even my mother did not really like my Raya look. But she was not as blunt as my sisters in criticizing it. I remember when she used to say how difficult it was to shop for my Raya clothes when I was studying overseas because I had so many conditions about my clothing. “No manik, no labuci, not too much flowers or patterns. Preferrably ONLY one colour without any corak. If got embroideries, the colour must be the same colour as the cloth.” My mom would be like “Susah la kak ngah ni. Mana ada orang jual baju raya macam tu. Pakai ja apa yang mak beli!” (At that time, the term “monochromatic minimalist” look was not popular yet so I  came out with all the conditions for my Raya clothes. Obviously, I was ahead of my time (LOL) and did not yet know that the ‘monochromatic minimalist look’ was the words I was looking for as I was describing my taste to my mom 10 years ago. Seriously Raya clothes is getting ridiculous these days. Like my friends had said in one of her Facebook postings “Depa ni jual baju raya ka baju kahwin?” Hahah. We are doctors… we are practical people. If we are going to buy clothes, we want to make sure we can wear it to work too. And as I don’t really wear baju kurung to work, I don’t really like to buy it.)

 

Eid Pot Luck With Beloved Friends

I still remember how sad I had felt when I thought I was probably going to be stuck in a nursing hostel in JB for Eid. Not exactly an uplifting thought that was. Even though I am not the sort of person who gets severely homesick, but I must admit that after MCO was enforced (and therefore I could not return home to pay my last respect to my Tok Wan and neither could I return home once a month as I had first planned when I decided to do my attachments in JB), I started to feel very acutely the bitterness of being separated from my family. I enjoyed the actual postings themselves and learned a lot too but at the same time, I REALLY just wanted to be home. It was a blessing that Gerak Malaysia happened just in time to coincide with my end of posting.

So I felt so sorry for my friends who could not cross borders to be with their family. It must be so difficult for them. I thought it would be nice if I could spend some portion of my 1st and 2nd Syawal with them too and celebrate with them so that they wouldn’t feel so sad or bored. (Because I could be pretty entertaining when I put my mind to it. Hahaha. Excuse my perasan thought.)

On the first day of Syawal, Hafilah organized the makan-makan first for Isma and Dayah, the two friends of ours who could not cross the state borders. We went to Hafilah’s house in the afternoon and had a great chat about how people are stigmatizing doctors and healthcare workers during Eid. I heard that some people did not allow their family members who are health care workers to balik kampung even though they are in the same home town. My God!

In the social media you guys hailed us as heroes. But at the same time, you don’t want us around you for Raya even though we are in the same home town as you? This is ridiculous. Thank God my family is not like that. And if they are like that, I have all the facts and figures to correct their stigma. (Statistically speaking, the public have a higher chance of contracting Covid-19 compared to health care workers, ok! We wear our PPE all the time while attending to patients. Whereas the public can ALSO contract Covid-19 while doing their grocery shopping without wearing proper PPE and they wouldn’t even realize it. The head of the family could return home after shopping and bring back the virus to the rest of the family members too; just like the health care workers could bring back the virus to her family. But unlike the public, the health care workers are super vigilant about hygiene and using the PPE. So in terms of risks, we are not that different. In fact I would argue that the public have even worse risk when we look at the statistics. There are not many front-liners or healthcare workers who are infected with Covid-19.  What makes you think that you are less risky to your parents than your family members who are health care workers, then?)

Anyway, after that hot discussion, we took some outdoor pictures while still maintaining social distancing. Below are some of the pictures that we took while doing our Eid visit at Hafilah’s home. Please note how we maintained our social distancing while taking our Raya pics hahha

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On the 2nd Day of Syawal, it was my turn to organize a Pot Luck party for Isma and Dayah. Hafilah and Isma requested that I cook the meal myself as I have always jokingly told them how my cooking skill is not so bad. I told them that I cooked very tasty nasi goreng and my Pek Nga is just out of this world. Haha. They were like “Prove it, Afiza. Words are cheap!” 

I told them “Takkan raya nak makan nasi goreng!” I wanted to just order something for my Pot Luck party. But they wanted me to prove that I could cook. Hahah. I regretted boasting about my cooking… because it REALLY was a boast.

So I decided to cook bihun goreng instead. And then I bought some chickens from KFC to eat with my bihun goreng. I also bought carbonated drinks (Pepsi, because I couldn’t find Coke in the gas station shop), to have with my bihun goreng, brownies and kek lapis Sarawak. (Bihun goreng with Coca-Cola have always been my favourite kind of pairing. I still remember how I had insisted that I want bihun goreng and Coca-Cola for my Majlis Khatam Quran when I was a child. My mom was horrified when she said “Kak Ngah, majlis khatam Quran orang buat pulut kuning dgn air sirap. Mana ada orang buat bihun dengan Coca-Cola. Ish, mak hairan la dengan kak ngah ni.” Hahha. But I was so adamant about getting bihun goreng and Coca Cola because I felt like they should give me what I liked to eat as this was a celebration of my achievement. My dad finally said that I should get what I wanted and so my mom gave in eventually. And really, all the kids in my surau enjoyed the meal too. They said it was the best meal they had ever had for a Majlis Khatam Quran. So, when I chose to cook Bihun Goreng for my Pot Luck contribution, I was also reminiscing my glorious childhood days in which I could get away with doing something weird and against the norm but it turned out splendidly well, anyway. Seriously, who made it a rule that for khatam Quran, you MUST have pulut kuning? Where is it written anywhere that we cannot change our menu if we don’t like pulut kuning? Hahha. But really, looking back, I was blessed to have my parents who entertained my weird ways. Even though they were pretty strict parents, in some ways they were quite indulgent.)

I hosted my Pot Luck at my own house instead of at my parents’ house because I wanted to minimize the risk of unnecessary contact with strangers for my elderly parents and my nieces and nephews. Before this, all types of Raya gatherings were hosted at my parents’ house with very minimal effort on my part as everything was cooked and prepared by my mother and we only helped out here and there. This was the first time I  entertained my own guests in my own house and prepared everything myself. It was pretty hard work, guys. After the Subuh prayer, I straightaway came down to the kitchen to prepare my Bihun and only THEN I really appreciated how effortful it is to organize a party. (I felt like such an adult hahah. And it took Covid-19 MCO for me to volunteer as a host. Without MCO, I would never have done it). 

To tell you the truth, I am not the sort of person who entertain people in my own house. When I want to hang out with friends, I find ways that we can hang out and talk with very minimal effort on my part. Let’s just go out and eat and talk. Simple and less time-consuming and more efficient, right? Minimal input that yields the best output!

For me to invite you into the privacy of my own home, you must be pretty close to me. For me to be going through all these efforts, Isma and Dayah must be feeling pretty special (Hahahaa just kidding) I don’t do these sort of things for just anyone, you know. And it might not happen again in the future LOL. So I hope they really had a good time because I certainly did. God knows when I would be hosting again. Next time, I am more likely to just ask them to choose a restaurant instead.

Izati and Alida were like, “Since when are you so sweet to cook for your friends?”

See? Inilah hikmah Covid-19! It brings out the dormant sweet nature in me into the open. Haha.

Dayah and Isma brought so much more food and they were all yummy. There were lontong, kuah kacang, ketupat pulut, ketupat nasi, daging palembang (sedap gila this one!) and a lot of kuih raya too.  Hafilah brought ice cubes because I forgot that I didn’t have them in my house (Alas, a great host, I am NOT).

Below are the pics of our Pot Luck party. In one of the pictures, you can see Hafilah and Dayah eating durian at the front door of my house. They insisted to buy Durian and eat them straightaway. I was like “Please eat your durian by the front door to minimize the smell of it in the air inside the house. After you eat, please throw everything in the bin outside the house.” Hahahaa. (I know I am a terrible host. But that is the beauty of an intimate gathering between ONLY close friends… straight talking is expected and encouraged. Me and Isma are not a fan of Durian. We could eat it occasionally, but we do not like it THAT much. The smell of Durian can be migraine-inducing for Isma. Adeh! But see how we can tolerate our friends’ habits when our friends are worth tolerating? I have my own bad habits that I am sure they have been tolerating pretty patiently all these while. They keep saying I am pretty rigid haha. Thank God for friends who are understanding and accepting of you but at the same time will improve your manners and call you out when you slack off. We all need that type of friends.)

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A trip to Poh Kong And Habib Jewels

Ah… we lose to temptation, guys. We surrendered to the lure of the Raya sales.

Dayah is a fan of gold jewelries too. And I think Isma was heavily influenced (or peer-pressured? haha) by Dayah and me to take an interest in gold too. Whereas Hafilah is more into white-gold, platinum and diamond kind of jewelries. (Well, Hafilah exists at another level altogether with a lot more money to burn than the rest of us hahah.)

So when we found out that Habib Jewels got sales, we went to Aman Central to check it out. #TheTemptationIsTooGreat

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See how excited Isma, Dayah and Hafilah were as they were looking over the jewelry pieces that were displayed so enticingly to tempt us.

Dayah and Isma bought something from Habib Jewels. And I bought something from Poh Kong. We think of it as #InvestmentDuringCov-Eid, in order to soothe the guilt and justify our spending.

Usually, I am not the type who goes to the mall on the day of Eid. But it so happened that because of Covid-19, there were no houses to visit and there really was not much to do at home. At the same time my birthday was just one day before Eid. So, my parents had given me some money as a birthday gift so that I could buy a nice handbag with it. However, since I knew that Habib Jewels got sales, I wasn’t too keen to spend money on handbags. Like I said, I am NOT a fashionista and I am NOT brand conscious. I am not going to spend so much money on branded handbags and I’d rather use the birthday money to buy gold jewelries. (There are only two things I really like as a gift: books and gold. A meal is lovely too. You know, I like practical stuff that I can use or consume Hahha). 

Some people think that it is high-maintenance of us to spend money on gold jewelries. As though we are materialistic. That is so short-sighted! Gold is the only easily-liquidated asset that is worth buying. Gold could see you through bad times. When desperate, it can be pawned off immediately with minimal fuss or paperwork and it can sustain you for quite some time. No other investment is easily liquidated like that.

I will NOT spend money on brands…. I think people who are brand-conscious are the real high-maintenance people. Not us, gold lovers. I prefer to spend money on things that are INHERENTLY and INTRINSICALLY valuable; not because the society says it is valuable… but because it just REALLY is. When something is inherently valuable, its worth will be INDEPENDENT of other people’s opinions and thoughts and its value will stand the test of time. Can you say the same thing for fashion brands? No! Brands are dependent on society’s opinions and people’s tastes and the society’s constant fickle-mindedness. And they are NOT intrinsically and inherently valuable. (Therefore when I have to spend my money on other things – that are NOT gold and NOT knowledge/travel/experience and NOT food hahha – I am very stingy and I always stick to the principles of ‘sekadar cukup’)

So when I got home and showed my parents what I bought, my dad was like “Awat tak beli handbag?” Hahaha. Maybe he also despaired of my lack of style and wanted to induce me to buy something nice other than gold. But ah… old habit dies hard, guys. I would probably buy a handbag as my father had asked me to do if there was no Habib Jewel sales. But the timing was just too coincidental… it was Raya and it was my birthday and there were sales at jewelry shops. See? The stars were perfectly aligned to induce my manic buying. LOL. And look, it was peer pressure as well…Dayah and Isma bought gold too (even though I bought it first at Poh Kong hahah. So maybe it was I who pressure them?) So the element of peer pressure was very real this time when everyone in the group is into gold. (Well… when your action cannot be justified, you blame peer pressure. Classic, am I not? 😉 )

So…anyway, despite Covid, it was actually a pretty happy Eid, guys. Alhamdulillah for the happiness of having awesome family and friends that Allah surrounds me with. After the despair of possibly not being able to come home for Eid, this was a great blessing, indeed.

Book of The Month

Of course the book of the month I will be writing about is The Quran as we have just exited the month of Ramadhan and is currently in the early days of Syawal. I spent my whole Ramadhan only reading the Quran because I did not have much time to read anything else.

This review is a simple review for the non-Muslims who may not know that much about the Quran and would like to have a general idea of what the Quran is.

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Quran is the word of God

As a Muslim kid, it was my mother who first taught me how to read the Quran. I was 5 years old when she started teaching me how to spell in Arabic. Later, I was sent to the local surau to learn my Quranic recitation with an ustazah. I was pretty good at tajweed and I was among the fluent ones who were later asked by the ustazah to teach the younger kids. It was common practice back then for the fluent senior reciters to help teach the more junior reciters especially when the ustazah was busy.

But I didn’t understand what I was so fluently reading.

Because the Quran is in Arabic.

The peculiar thing about being a non-Arab Muslim is that it will be hard for us to understand what we are reciting of the Quran without reading the translation, unless we have learned the Arabic language. (And 80% of Muslims are NOT Arabs. Arabs are the minority among Muslims). We can read the Arabic text of the Quran and articulate the words the way they were supposed to be articulated, but not all of us understand the meanings of what we are reciting.

It is like knowing how to spell and read in Hindi and knowing how to make all the sounds that correspond to the combination of alphabets in the Hindi language but you do not understand a single thing of what you are saying. Well, imagine being able to read out the lyrics of a Hindi song that is written in the Hindi language but you could not understand what you are singing.  (It is a bit like receptive aphasia. You read it and say it perfectly right because you had known how the combination of the alphabets SHOULD sound, but you cannot know what all the sounds mean without reading the translation).

This is due to the fact that non-Arab Muslims MUST learn Quranic recitation in its original Arabic language because our 5 daily worships and some of our special do’a are in arabic. Our worships are not valid in any other language. So the arabic language is the lingua franca in our prayers. Everyone recite the same surah Al-Fatihah for prayers and everything in the prayer is standardized by the usage of the Arabic language. So if I go to a mosque in Australia, or in the UK or Uganda, or Spain, or just anywhere on earth, I can just join the congregational prayer as usual because the prayer is the same anywhere on earth. All of us might come from various different nationalities, but we all pray using the same unified language of worship – the Arabic language. An Ugandan Imam can lead the prayer for other nationalities behind him and they all would know what to say and what to do while the prayer was being led by the Ugandan Imam because we ALL use the lingua franca of worship while performing our worship – i.e. the Quranic Arabic language.

That’s why my brother-in-law can be an Imam to lead our congregational prayer when we had to do our Eid prayer at home (even though he did appear and sound a bit awkward when he did it hahaha). Because all Muslims practice the same way in worshipping…. and therefore anyone can take over the job of leading a prayer if they are confident enough or when desperate times call for their lead. I can lead a prayer too when I am just praying among girls because the words in the prayer are standardized in Arabic. And anyone can do it. (In Australia, me and my housemates took turn leading the Terawih prayers during Ramadhan. Initially, we did laugh at each other’s awkwardness and choice of short surahs. But by the end of Ramadhan, we did actually improve our performance.)

At the end of our standard worship, we can later add on our own specific do’a and our own special prayer/requests to God in our own language – this is the non-obligatory part of the worship where we can have our own unique style of making the do’a and use our own words for it. This is the part where we naturally talk to God in our own way. (In the past, this is the part where I would pray hard that God let me pass all my exams. Haha)

I have explained before, that access to God is granted equally to all Muslims. There is no such a thing as an extra holy practice for the scholars compared to the non-scholar Muslims. So everyone can be an Imam when we have to… and Covid-19 Pandemic has highlighted that part beautifully. We just need to practice more to be less awkward in performing it.

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This is hilarious! Haha.

The Quran still exists in its original Arabic language word-by-word without a single alteration…because we always use it in our daily lives when we are performing our 5 daily worships… and this has been going on for the past 1400 years. The continuity of the tradition is amazing. Arabic is an alive language and is still used very widely (unlike Sanskrit, Latin, Greek, Aramaic… they are no longer that frequently used in conversation or in anything academic. Language that are no longer used will eventually become a dead language. Languages that have become a dead language will not be efficient in transmitting information. So, for any holy book that has its original form existing in a dead language, the knowledge transmission cannot be widely distributed to all practitioners and thus only very few real scholars can access the message of the book and the majority of non-scholars will be left in the dark. Furthermore, translations are full of limitations… and the accuracy of any translation cannot be guaranteed. Have you tried translating any text from one language to another before? I had to do a lot of article translation as a child because that was how my father taught me and my siblings our English and Malay… it can be frustrating when you cannot translate the text just right because of the limitation that is inherent in one language or the other.)

So, understanding the meaning of what we utter in Arabic would require some extra effort for non-Arabs. We must read the translation in order to know what we are saying. But at least we do know that the Arabic language is  still a very alive language and therefore Quranic messages are still preserved in its pristine and unchanged form and the messages are accessible to all the Arabs and also to the non-Arabs who have studied the language.

So whenever I read the Quran during Ramadhan… I have to be really efficient with my time because I need to do double the work; I have to read the Arabic text first (to get the pahala of reciting the Quran in its original form) before going on to read the translation of the Quran (to understand the meaning and the message, which would also give you pahala). So I was pretty much in a rush to finish the Quran during Ramadhan, knowing that I have more work to do because I don’t know Arabic. (I become even more particular about not wanting people to waste my time when I am in the month of Ramadhan.)

When I was just a child, I only read the Arabic version without really feeling like I need to know the meaning of the Quran. I only memorized the translations of some of the frequently used surahs during prayer but I did not bother to know the meanings of the ENTIRE Quran. However while I was doing my IB study as an 18 year old teenager, I finally felt like it was time for me to know the message of the entire Quran. This sudden interest started after my ex-classmate passed away in a car accident. It made me think a bit deeper about life when she passed away. And since then, I always read the Quran in Arabic together with its translation. I started to read the Malay translation first and later on, I moved on to the English translation too (I must admit that I prefer the English one for accuracy)

It was then that I knew how ridiculous it was for any Muslim to NOT know the message of the entire Quran and only reciting them in Arabic. Sure, you will still get the pahala of reciting the Quran in its original language, but in terms of understanding the text and the context of the Quran, how is it different from me singing Hindi songs without knowing what I was singing?

Looking back, I felt like the ustazah in my surau should have insisted that all the kids use the Quran with translations included. It would have been nice to have learned the meanings of the Quran while simultaneously learning my Quranic recitation in Arabic as a child. Children can absorb language pretty fast and I wonder if I could have obtained a more intuitive understanding of the Arabic language if I was exposed to the meaning of the Quran much sooner.

When you read the Quran, you will find that it is not the same as reading a story book. The structure of the Quran is entirely unique and it doesn’t follow the chronological order of the usual book. There were no words like “Once upon a  time… in the beginning…” 

Nope! Instead, when you read the Quran you really DO feel like it is God who is directly talking to you. Because the Quran is the instruction of God to our prophet. God was instructing, advising, directing, calming and soothing Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in many different contexts and situations. God directly told our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) on what to tell the masses whenever a specific question was asked. So our Prophet only repeated what God had said to him.

So when you read the Quran, you will find words that are instructive and conversational in nature. God himself taught Prophet Muhammad how to answer it when people asked him about the nature of God by revealing these four sentences from Surah Al-Ikhlas.

1)Say (O Muhammad) “He is Allah, the One and Only (Unique)”

2)Allah, the Eternal Refuge

3)He begets not, nor was he begotten

4) And none is comparable to him

So in the above sentences we knew that it was God’s own words telling our Prophet (PBUH) how to answer his audience about the nature of God. We really do feel like we are reading the words of God. So we don’t get passive storybook sentences like “One day, God told Muhammad regarding how he should describe the nature of God to those who had asked. Muhammad was informed by God to say that the nature of God is that God is uniquely One, and does not beget a son nor is He begotten. Muhammad was also asked to emphasize to the masses that none can be compared to Him….”

Do you see the difference? Storybook sentences are a retelling by someone else who is NOT God. You feel like you are reading the words of a NARRATOR instead of God, Himself. And this is NOT how Quran’s language style is. Quran’s language style is God’s own words. And we repeat them in our daily prayers 5 times a day. Amazing, isn’t it?!

So if you read the Quran expecting to read it like you are reading a story book, you probably wouldn’t get it. You would be confused at first. Take it from me… I was confused too when I first tried to read the translations of the Quran. Because my mind was so used to the usual storybook style and structure that I was quite disoriented at first. But as I continued to read it, I was blown away. I was REALLY reading God’s words… not the words of a narrator retelling a story. I was reading from the direct source; from God himself.

Now that I have passed all my exams, I am quite free with my time. I am thinking that maybe I should start learning Arabic so that my recitation will be more efficient. If I am good in Arabic, I don’t have to do double the work anymore or read everything twice in order to understand the meanings. If any of you have any recommendation of a good Arabic class nearby in Alor Setar, do let me know. Otherwise, I might need to do it online.

The contents of the Quran consisted of 114 chapters and each chapter (except one: Chapter At-Taubah) begins with the words Bismillahhirahmanirrahim which is translated to “In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful”.

In general, the Quran contained topics such as:

  • The Nature of the Spiritual World
  • The Law and Commandments
  • Historical Accounts
  • The Wisdom
  • The Prophecies

When you read the original Arabic version, you will get a sense as though you are reading an epic poem because the sentences rhymed beautifully in the end. When translated into other languages, the rhyme and rhythm are lost to give way for accuracy of meaning in another language. That is the limitation of understanding the Quran from translations. And that is why we need to learn Arabic if we have the means and the time to do it.

Wish me luck, won’t you?

I hope you guys have a sense of what Quran is all about by reading the review above. Do check it out as it is very easily accessible. Even Popular Bookstore sells the Quran.

Until next time, my dear readers.

Eid Mubarak. Taqabbal Allahu Minna Wa Minkum. Much love and may Allah bless all of us.

Ramadhan In The Midst of Covid-19

Dear readers,

I hope it is not too late for me to wish everyone a good Ramadhan (Covid-19 not withstanding) even though we are already in our 9th day of fasting (which means we have entered the 2nd week of the fasting month. Well, I guess, it IS a bit late for a Ramadhan wish LOL)

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You know, I have this ideal image in my mind of how a dedicated blogger should behave and run her blog. In my mind, a good and dedicated blogger should always write a blog post for every occasion and every celebration that is currently going on, right on time. Maybe she should publish a blog post wishing happy new year right on the eve of the new year day, and writes about Ramadhan on the first day of Ramadhan… or wishes all her readers Eid Mubarak on the eve of Eid itself. The blogger should also always be au courant with all the latest issues and write about it as soon as possible when the news is still hot.

Well…

I guess, I am never gonna be a dedicated blogger. LOL

I even failed to keep my promise to write one blog post per month as I didn’t write a single one in the month of April. Life is so hectic right now. *sigh* (One day, maybe…I will write about why April 2020 was such a bad month for me. But, Alhamdulillah ala kulli hal)

I will try to make up for it by writing twice this month, but since we have established the fact that I am not a dedicated blogger, I will not hold it against you if you find it hard to believe that I will write another one this month. I am finding it hard to believe myself. But I am thinking that maybe, Insya Allah, I will write one for Eid at the end of May and spam this blog with a lot of Eid photos of the family (even though some of my siblings won’t be around due to the banning of interstate travel during MCO. Ah… my heart breaks! I will miss playing our usual Raya games with my nephews and nieces.)

But Ramadhan is a month of blessing (even with the prospect of a less celebratory Raya in the midst of Covid-19 pandemic.) Some of my non-Muslim friends think that Muslims suffer so much throughout Ramadhan when actually, Ramadhan is not that hard. It is just like delayed gratification when you think about it. It was just about missing lunch, folks. It wasn’t THAT physically exhausting. So please don’t feel uncomfortable or apologize for eating your lunch in front of any Muslim because I don’t mind at all and most Muslims don’t either. The test of Ramadhan is not physical. And even if it is a physical test, it is a beneficial one as fasting brings a lot of health benefits as well. Intermittent fasting is all the rage and so trendy these days.

The test of Ramadhan is spiritual and psychological – which to me personally, is the same thing. (I cannot separate my psychological being from my spiritual being. Is there any REAL distinction between the two, anyway? Argument is still on going regarding this. I would argue that for religious people at least, they are one and the same. Psychiatry is translated as Perubatan Jiwa! Jiwa, ok! Can refer to the mind or the soul or BOTH! I personally make no distinction between my psychological health and my spiritual health. If there is any distinction, it is purely academic rather than practical. There’s a lot of semantics in studying Psychiatry, to those who don’t know.)

The purpose of fasting is to attain righteousness and God consciousness (taqwa). At the end of Ramadhan, it is not REALLY Eid that you get as a gift (even though Eid IS pretty awesome.) It is taqwa… having God consciousness. That is why Ramadhan is not a physical test. It is spiritual and/or psychological in nature.

fasting taqwa

The only thing that can cause you to restrain yourself from eating from dawn till dusk for 30 days straight when nobody is looking… is taqwa. That’s it.

If you VOLUNTARILY forego your food and drinks when no one is there to witness your action, it is because you truly believe that God is around and sees what you do. Otherwise why would you even bother? Young Muslim kids who first learn how to fast sometimes secretly break their fast when no one is looking because their concept of God is not perfect yet. (I admit that I also secretly ate as a child. *walk of shame* haha) As these kids mature and attain God consciousness, they believe that God sees them even when no one is around and therefore they fast properly and no longer cheat by eating secretly. Throughout the day as they experience thirst and hunger, their bodies remind them on and off to eat and drink, to disobey Allah…. But their minds tell them to hold on and wait until Maghrib, to delay that gratification. As they mature into their adulthood, they will fill up their Ramadhan not only with just proper fasting but also Quranic reading and non-obligatory worshipful acts on top of the obligatory ones. And for each subsequent Ramadhan, they continue to improve their performance and increase their worship of Allah, attaining taqwa gradually but surely throughout their lives. This constant need to improve their taqwa continues until the day they breathe their last air. They grow in piety… from a young Muslim kid who would secretly eat when no one is looking… to an elderly person who would cry when they are told by their doctor not to fast because their physical health does not allow it.

That is what Ramadhan means to Muslims. Taqwa. God consciousness.

So please don’t think that Ramadhan is about food and Bazaar Ramadhan only. Haha. We are not THAT hungry that we are so hung up about food. I had one Chinese colleague when I was a houseman who asked me “So you guys fast during the day, and then eat the whole night long, is it?” Hahaha. Apparently, they believe that we suffer so much during Ramadhan that we will make up for it by eating the whole night long until Subuh. But that is not true guys. After breaking our fast, we immediately perform our Maghrib prayer, Isya prayer, Terawih prayer, and then we will go to sleep early because we need to wake up early for other night prayers later on, as well as for sahoor (the early morning breakfast before the Subuh prayer). And of course, we work and study as usual during Ramadhan. When would we have the time to eat all night long? LOL.

But can’t really blame them for thinking that we behave like a hungry piranha during Ramadhan. The culture of Ramadhan in Malaysia unfortunately revolves around food…. Where else can you get so many open houses invitation a whole month long after Ramadhan other than in Malaysia? I don’t think such a culture exists in other Muslim countries. Based on my experience in Australia, the Arabs in Newcastle mosque only broke their fast with dates and some bread and then they would rush to perform their Maghrib prayer, leaving the Malaysian students still eating our rice and chicken to our hearts’ satisfaction. Hahaha. (Tak sanggup nak buka puasa with only dates. I need my rice, man! So that I can concentrate better in my Maghrib prayer. Hahha. So my eating rice is also for the sake of my prayer, right? Justified, isn’t it? 😛 )

Other people in other countries only celebrate Eid for one day and then they immediately start their 6 days Syawal fasting  (Puasa Enam). In Malaysia, you have to plan your Puasa Enam properly so that your fasting won’t coincide with various open house events around you… because even though fasting is supposed to be easy after one month of doing it, it is not so easy outside Ramadhan when every one of your friends seems to be attending daily food party all month long hahaha. And the fact that Puasa Enam is not compulsory, it makes it hard to deal with the temptation.

So you see, Malaysians are passionate about food. And therefore our Ramadhan culture is a bit skewed towards food-related concerns.

It is not so in other countries.

Ramadhan Is About The Quran

Actually Ramadhan is about the Quran rather than the food or the actual physical fasting.

Because the Quran was revealed in the month of Ramadhan.

When I was in Australia, I witnessed how the Arab Muslims carried the Quran all day long (at that time, we didn’t yet have smartphones with Quranic App) and would read the Quran cover to cover throughout Ramadhan. They read the Quran in any spare time that they got… while waiting for the bus, in between classes, a few minutes after the five obligatory prayers and so on and so forth. (Most Malays confine the reading of the Quran to when they are properly at home, wearing their prayer clothing and sitting on their prayer mat before they proceed to open the Quran. The shy Malays prefer to read the Quran in the privacy of their own home or in the mosque rather than publicly. But I think this self-imposed limitation is unwise and inefficient, especially in the month of Ramadhan when time is precious and we might not have enough private time to finish reading the Quran in Ramadhan. So, just discreetly read it on your phone when you have some spare time in between your daily activities. More efficient use of your time, right?)

Most Muslims will try to read the whole Quran in that month to celebrate what Ramadhan means in relation to the Quran. How many religious people in other religions can claim that they have read their religious book cover to cover in their lifetime, let alone reading it cover to cover every year? Most people only pick and choose which verse from their religious scriptures to read and practice. But Muslims cannot do that. The knowledge of the Quran is revealed for the whole of humankind in its entirety. It is not only for the scholars of Islam… but FOR ALL.

People think that being a Muslim is difficult. Like, Islam is too strict. They should read their own religious scriptures and try to follow them all before thinking that Islam is too strict… some of the religious practice in other scriptures are even harder to follow and therefore most of them simply abandon the practice to the priests or monks of their religion. But really… it doesn’t make their religion easier than Islam just because they don’t practice what they are supposed to practice were they to properly follow their own scriptures.

In this month of Ramadhan, I wish people would understand that Islam is not that hard as people had perceived. It appears hard in comparison to other religion because they DO NOT practice their own religion the way it is outlined in their own religious scriptures. Read your own scriptures cover to cover. Go and truly immerse yourself in your own religious book. And come back and tell me… can you follow the rules in your religion? Regular Muslims like me follow what is outlined in the Quran, which by your standard is too strict. But as strict as it is, it HAS been followed by the majority of practicing Muslims all over the world. As strict as it is, it is doable to most practicing Muslims. In fact the difference between one Muslim to another is only in scholarship status, not in religious practice.

For example, an ustazah and other Muslim women who are not ustazah are BOTH required to pray, fast, and do all the practices in Rukun Islam…and they are all required to wear the hijab regardless of whether they are a religious scholar or not (So, not following the compulsory rules is a sin… not just for the ustazah but for everyone). There is no particular set of dressing just for the ustazah and another type of dressing for the non-scholar Muslim women. Whereas in many other religions, priests/monks/nuns have their own kind of dressing (Nuns wear differently, covering their whole body including their head, than other Christian women who are not nuns, for example. Monks also wear differently than the rest of the non-Monks even when they practice the same religion). In Islam… there is no such a thing. The rules are THE SAME for everyone, scholars or not.

In Islam, one might be a religious scholar, one might be a doctor, one might be an engineer, one might be a cleaner… but when it comes to religious practices, we are the same. A pious cleaner might have a higher status in the eyes of Allah because of her diligence and good deeds compared to the ustazah. It’s just that the ustazah has more depth of the intricate and detailed knowledge about the religion because that is her area of study. But in terms of religious practices, there is no such a thing as one set of practice for the scholars, and another set of practice for the regular guy and girl. Anyone can work towards attaining a higher status in the eyes of Allah by increasing their level of piety. In that sense, we are all equal regardless of our worldly status. The most noble among us is the ones who are most righteous (having taqwa/God consciousness)… not the ones who are most scholarly, or possessing a certain type of skin color, or having a certain social status. Caste system…. well, we don’t recognize that in Islam and we frown upon it wholeheartedly and unreservedly.

Equal

 

Our Imams do not need to forgo marriage or sexual intercourse in order to be an Imam. He is an Imam by the virtue of him having studied the religion and becoming an Islamic scholar… not because he is required to do some extra practice or has to commit to some vows or rituals that other Muslim men don’t have to do. Just like any other Muslim men who are not Imams, the Imams can have sexual intercourse too within the bounds of marriage. Again, no difference in religious practice or religious rules… only in scholarly knowledge (which anyone can decide to pursue if they want to).

There is no requirement in Islam that you need to seclude yourself in some temple, and shave off your head, or eat vegetarian diet, and dress in plain cloth in order to be recognized as extra-pious or extra-holy compared to other people in the same religion as you. Imam or not, we all must pray five times a day. Ulama or not, you are not allowed to eat pork. Mufti or not, you have to pay your zakat and perform the Hajj pilgrimage. Ustazah or not, we all have to wear modest clothing (The rule is for every woman. Those who do not follow the rule KNOW that it is a sin regardless of whether she is an ustazah or not). See? Our practices are  the same regardless of whether you are a scholar (ulama) or not. There is no such a thing as one rule for the scholars, and a more relaxed, more convenient rule for a non-scholar person. Access to a better relationship with Allah is by STANDARDIZED practice and worship… and ANYONE can access that relationship without having to go through any intermediary in the form of a scholar.

The scholar can be challenged if he says the wrong thing. There is no such a thing as “I have had this divine dream… because I have better access to God than you guys, the regular people. You guys must follow what my dream says. It is God’s inspiration for me.” Nope! No way! By the time Prophet Muhammad passed away, all divine revelation had ceased coming. He was the last messenger and Al-Quran is the last divine scripture for all humankind. If something is not in the Quran or in the Hadeeth, then it is not evidence-based (not scripture-based) and it can be challenged by anyone. We can demand proof and textual evidence from the scholar before we are obligated to follow their opinions. (In fact, those who use their dreams and mystic practices to falsely elevate their status among people…usually belong to some religious cults that have nothing to do with Islam.)

This is what I love about Islam. It makes sense. It celebrates our natural human inclination. Absolute obedience is only to Allah and the teaching of the Prophet. And the rule is THE SAME for everyone, regardless of their level of scholarship in the religion. And everyone has equal access to God regardless of their level of scholarship. They just have to be willing to perform the worship and that’s it! Access granted! The only difference between us in the eyes of Allah is our level of piety.

So again, is Islam that hard or difficult? How can you say that when regular non-scholar Muslims like me can practice in the same manner that a scholar Ustazah/Ulama/Imam does? Again, just because you don’t perform everything that your scriptures told you to do and leave them to only be practiced by the priests, the monks, the nuns and the extra-holy among you… doesn’t mean Islam is a difficult religion. Think about it.

If you ever find something that doesn’t make sense, search further. Either the fact is wrong, the context is inaccurate, or the reasoning is manipulated by parties who have some conflict of interests. Or maybe the fact is right but it doesn’t make sense to you because you do not have the knowledge yet that will make it sensible to you. It’s okay… just keep on researching until you are satisfied.

Because the older I get, the more I realize that our knowledge is limited and we have to continue learning for the rest of our lives. In order for us to be so convinced that anything that does not make sense to us is not true… then we must be confident that we have all the relevant knowledge to come to that conclusion. But we do NOT have all the knowledge… and things may not make sense to us because we are just stupid in that particular topic. Haha. And therefore, we have to learn continuously.

As a child, I couldn’t wait to grow up so that I wouldn’t have to go to school anymore. Haha. I thought adult life was fun and easy without having to learn so many things. Now, we all know better. Adult life is just a different level of difficulty.  So… I have resigned myself to continuous learning till the day I die. My formal learning is my medical/psychiatry training and that is still on-going (Ah… penat dah dengan formal learning actually. But persistence is a virtue, and that is what I am doing. Being persistent LOL). But my informal learning is the fun one…. The fiction, the non-fiction, the documentaries, the travel, the volunteerism, the experience. I live for those stuff. I work and receive my salary so that I can spend that salary on my informal learning. That’s why I am so particular about time… I need enough time to pursue my informal learning. That’s why I have never done a single locum in my entire life as a doctor. Outside office hours… is my own time for me to pursue other non-medical stuff. Not gonna spend that time doing locums, LOL.

The fact is, our non-professional life sustains our professional life.

If you abandon your non-professional life, prepare for your professional life to suffer as well. If you love your professional life, please take care of your non-professional life. If my professional life (not the psychiatry part, but the admin part and the technical bureaucratic, red tape part) diminishes my non-professional life (family, principles, ideals, causes I care about, my other interests), I will abandon my professional life eventually. If my professional life oppresses my ideals or my principles, I will walk away from it with no regrets after having done a risk-benefit assessment in my head.

Read the excerpts below on why it is so important to have other passions in your life.

A study of self-reported success and personal satisfaction by Garfinkel et al (2001) found that:

  • the perception that one’s non-professional life sustained professional life was the one lifestyle characteristic that predicted the perception of success
  • the best predictor of personal satisfaction was overall satisfaction with non-professional aspects of life.

Roberts (1997) makes the following observation:

When asked, “What would you like to do if you were not practising medicine?” doctors come up with an amazing range of activities and enthusiasms which for the most part have nothing to do with helping people. The challenge is not to see these as alternatives, but to make space for them to complement and invigorate our work.

We need to look after ourselves, yet we frequently neglect even the most basic considerations of exercise, diet, relaxation and play. It has been my experience in running burnt-out workshops for doctors that less than one in four (sometimes none) of those attending is satisfied with how they look after themselves. Those that are tend to have an established inner discipline such as meditation or prayer.’

So, this is the take home message that I am going to repeat; “Our non-professional life sustains our professional life.” Remember that. (It just so happens that I am one of the lucky ones who ALSO happen to love my professional life. Alhamdullillah, Allah placed me in a field I love.)

Ramadhan Series

In the spirit of Ramadhan, I would like to recommend to you guys to watch this Ramadhan series on Angels by Imam Omar Suleiman on You Tube. I love this series. The video is only 3-5 minutes per episode. And  they will post one episode per day for each day of the Ramadhan month on You Tube. You can even watch it in between your Terawih prayer when you feel a bit tired and need to freshen up before continuing on with your night worship. Below is the trailer for the series.

I also would like to share with you guys one of the best Sami Yusuf’s songs that I absolutely adore especially during Ramadhan. This song reminds me that many people truly suffer in the most unimaginable ways especially in other parts of the world and in war-torn countries… and my little, puny, insignificant struggle in life is really just that! Puny! Little and insignificant!

May Allah forgive me for my occasional lack of gratitude whenever I whine over something paltry.

Books of The Month

Because April was such a hectic month for me, I was only able to read two books. That is pathetic by my previous standard. Gosh… adulting means not having enough time for the fun pursuit in life even though you can now afford to pay for that pursuits.

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So the first book that I read in April is The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom which I bought in Popular at a Blockbuster price of MYR19.90. (And a hard cover book with such a price is a rare find in Popular. I was lucky!)

mitch albom

I have read plenty of Mitch Albom’s books and if you are familiar with him, you would know that he is quite thoughtful and philosophical. He would compromise believability of plots to enhance a philosophical idea. In this case, the narrator is Music! Haha. You know how when we were a primary school student, we were asked to write a short anthropomorphically-narrated essay such as “Saya sebatang pensel.” Well, in this case, the narrator is a Musical Talent (an anthropomorphic narrator), telling a story about someone he had bestowed some of his ‘musical soul’ to, named Frankie Presto. Musical Talent had watched over Frankie Presto since the day he was born because Frankie was his so-called disciple, performing music to the audience. So the life of Frankie Presto was told from the point of view of Musical Talent. A lot of flashback techniques and jumps between timeline went on in the narrative. Through the life of Frankie Presto, the author carried us through the music industry in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s…and further. We get to meet Elvis Presley, and many other great musicians that Frankie Presto had collaborated with (whose names I don’t bother to commit to memory because I am not into music of that era and quite unfamiliar with them).

Do I like this book? Well… I give it 2.5 out of 5 stars.

I like the language style… some of the sentences are musical and lyrical. Some of the contents in this book stir your mind, but that is one of my issues with this book. They only STIR your mind… rather than PROVOKE it.  Only by provoking my mind will an author TRULY engage my interest. And I am the sort of person who prioritize plot over anything else… if the plot is average, no amount of dressing up with flowery languages will make up for it. I am the sort of person who needs certain closure, neatness and believability in my plots, you know. Sure, I like reading about magic or fantasy… I read Harry Potter as a kid too. But Harry Potter books have got a proper plot development. There is a proper setting, a conflict, a mystery to solve, a climax to the story that requires proper resolution through creative problem-solving skills and a show of bravery by the main characters… and at last, there is that happy ending (so important!) with proper tying up of loose ends. I shut the book feeling satisfied. But this book is just about Frankie Presto’s life from when he was born until he died…and along the way he suffered some ups and downs. At the end of the book, I was like, “Okay fine, now I know the whole life of a fictional character by the name of Frankie Presto… where is the excitement? Where is the a-ha! moment? Where is the punch line, for God’s sake?”

In any story, the plot is the substance… whereas the language, the philosophical elements, and the characters are the ‘cosmetic ingredients’ that beautify and strengthen the substance! I need a good plot, first and foremost. Satisfied with that, I will then evaluate more kindly on the rest (But I do put a lot of emphasis on philosophical elements and characterizations too in order to enjoy a  good plot). So I would say that this book is average. I finished it. It was okay. I would not read it again. It doesn’t mean that Mitch Albom is not a talented author, because he really is. But maybe this one just doesn’t do it for me.

But, again you guys should read other reviews and make your own decision. I guess this book is of a different genre than the usual crime/mystery/thriller that I usually read. Maybe this type of book is just not my kind of tea. This book is categorized as Domestic Fiction genre. I regret to say, it’s just not for me.

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Okay, I am more excited to review this book (Save the best for last, I always say). The Plague was authored by Albert Camus, a Nobel Prize winner for Literature in 1957. This book which was originally written in the French language (titled La Peste) narrates the experience of Dr. Rieux in handling the outbreak of The Plague in the town of Oran in Algiers.

I was so impressed by how thoroughly Albert Camus had done his research in order to write a book on the challenges of dealing with an outbreak. In the midst of dealing with Covid-19 pandemic, reading this book will give us a lot of insights on human behavior in dealing with the difficulties and the uncertainties of life.

I remember thinking, “My God! This book was written in 1947! And yet… nothing has changed in terms of our human psychology and behavior in dealing with an outbreak. The behavior of health authorities, the thoughts running through the heads of the policy makers, the over-religious preaching by holier-than-thou religious figures, the knee-jerk reactions, the panic buying, the rushing to the police station to get a letter that would allow them to cross borders and travel to their loved ones,  the despair of being separated from your family members, the reactions of the masses to defy quarantine order, the stigmatizing of people whose family member is known to be infected, the anger at health authorities for wanting to take their relative away to be quarantined, the involvement of the police in helping the health care providers… these are exactly the same as what I am seeing in my own time with this Covid 19.” I was blown away!

I had massive amount of respect for Albert Camus at the end of this novel. He really did deserve the Nobel prize if this is an example of his work!

Guys, technology might change… in this novel, they communicated via letters, public notices, telegram… but human behaviour at all levels of society from policy makers to healthcare workers, to general public remains the same since 1947 until now. In fact, I would say that no matter in which period we live in, when facing the uncertainty of a disease outbreak or a life-threatening catastrophe, we will all behave the same way.

I think all doctors must read this book, especially if they are working in public health. Such an illuminating read. I was very impressed by a quote in this book that I actually wrote about it in one of my Facebook status. The quote summarized how we as the public must think and act in dealing with an outbreak. It says “Officialdom can never cope with something really catastrophic”.

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It struck me that in times of need and desperation, we must rally as a community and not being too dependent on the official channel to provide us with what we need. We must be proactive and settle the problems that we can settle ourselves. We can see our nurses/sisters/matrons sewing their own PPE rather than simply waiting for the official channel to provide them with that. Yes, by rights, the official channel is responsible to provide for you. But the fact of the matter is, ‘officialdom’ CANNOT cope when something is truly catastrophic. Selflessness, volunteerism, and gotong-royong spirit are what work.

And in this book, it narrated about how this character named Tarrou had rallied the whole community to help and volunteer with the cleaning and the sanitation in the community. It was that community rallying combined with the successful development of a vaccine that the town of Oran was finally free of The Plague. At the end of the book, I was amazed by how much Albert Camus must have done in terms of research. This is a book that is relatable until now. And I guess, that is the hallmark of a great literature… the social criticism (kritik sosial) is evergreen and stand the test of time.

In case I haven’t made it clear to you guys, I LOVE it! I love it!

So… I will give this novel 4.5 stars out of 5. The plot is great and neat and all loose ends were properly dealt with. The research is superb. The language is excellent. There is various pearls of philosophical wisdom being randomly dropped here and there throughout this novel. I was very pleasantly surprised that I had enjoyed this literary work.

Guys, you must know that not all classic literatures are enjoyable. Reading literature is not always fun. It is not like reading commercial fiction. Reading literature is usually a practice in managing boredom and a training in developing persistence haha. There are times when you have to force yourself to finish reading a literature by telling yourself “I should know this literature because it is so famous and it will be embarrassing if I haven’t read it. Haha.” But The Plague (La Peste) is certainly different. It has the virtue of being BOTH a great literature AND an enjoyable read. And that’s all I need to declare that Albert Camus was a great writer par excellence.

If you are interested to read classic literatures, most of the books written by Jules Verne/Mark Twain/ Jane Austen/ The Bronte sisters/ Arthur Conan Doyle are very good. Please choose from these authors first if you want to enjoy your first experience of classic literature. My first classic literature was by Jules Verne, ‘The Journey To The Center Of The Earth’ when I was 12 years old. I discovered it in my school library one afternoon, when I escaped from sport practice (latihan rumah sukan) to hang out in the library where it was air-conditioned hahah! And I was so attached to it that I didn’t want to return the book to the library (But of course I did return the book eventually. Not without a crack in my heart, though. And then, many years later, I purchased the book myself. Now, I have my own copy of this book in my bookshelf). I also love The Professor by Charlotte Bronte. And I have read everything on Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle. So guys, please do yourself a favour and start reading one of them. You will be like “How could I have not known that these delightful stories even exist? Have I ever truly lived? Hahha”

Ok, enough gushing for now. Haha.

If it were up to me, I could talk for hours about the books that I have read. This is my all-consuming obsession that I may never be cured from. All my friends were like “Terus excited muka Afiza bila cakap pasal buku cerita.” I could not even hide it, lol. Whenever we hang out as a group, I secretly hope that someone would open up a conversation about books, so that I can jump in. Of course I can open up that thread of conversation myself but I have come to realize that most people do not get to read that much anymore and I might ‘syok sendiri, excited sorang-sorang’ talking about books. So I just keep it to myself. (Ah… the suffering, guys! Maybe, I should join a book club… but yup, time is a consistent constraining factor).

Well, it is time to end this post because it is too long already. I will try to find exciting books to read in Ramadhan and I will insya Allah review them in my next blog post.

So, have a great Ramadhan guys. May Allah accept all our good deeds in this blessed month. Take care. Much love and may Allah bless all of us.

The Chaos Of Covid 19: A Personal Reflection

A junior psychiatry MO in the hospital I am currently attached to came to me one day and asked my point of view regarding whether she should go ahead and volunteer to be a front-liner for Covid-19 screening.

“Kak Afiza, we have been asked to volunteer our names to be one of the front-liners for Covid-19 screening. I am not sure whether I should give my name or not. I am worried if I might fall ill and not be able to handle it.”

I didn’t mince words when I said “I would have volunteered, if I were you. If I am not currently doing my attachment and have to finish this attachment within the timeframe, I would have volunteered. You will certainly benefit from the experience, no doubt about it. In fact, I am planning to volunteer once I have finished with this rotation and am back in my hometown, if they still need volunteers.”

This was not just a lip service for me. I love volunteer works because I always learn a lot by volunteering. I was in Program Khidmat Sosial Negara (PKSN) as a 17 year old girl, and I still remember what a good experience I had as a PKSN trainee. Unfortunately, my study commitment interfered with my love of volunteerism for many years after that (I was in KMB for my IB diploma, and then went to Australia for my medical studies, and then there was that 2 years of that grueling housemanship period to go through). As an MO, I volunteered in early 2014 during the massive flood in Kelantan as part of the PFA team. And then I volunteered to be a polling agent and counting agent for Pakatan Harapan in May 2018 and that was a very illuminating experience. And at the end of 2018, I volunteered under IMARET for the humanitarian mission to Palu Sulawesi to do psychological first aid for the survivors of the devastating Palu earthquake and tsunami. 2018 was a good year for me because I did not take any exam in that year and I was quite free. Unfortunately, for the whole year of 2019, I was swamped with CASC preparation and did not get any opportunity to contribute much. But I have missed doing volunteer works that would jolt me out of the same routine every day. My good friend who volunteered with me to Palu is currently a front-liner for handling Covid-19 cases as well. I would have loved to be able to join her. I have told her before when we were in Palu, volunteerism is addictive.

At each of my volunteer mission, I gained massively in terms of knowledge, sense of personal achievement and  feeling of contentment. I love being able to experience how people handle difficulties in life. The reflection that follows each encounter with people who are less fortunate than you is something you cannot get elsewhere. It builds my own resilience and helps me tremendously in facing future difficulties, as I remember how much more fortunate I am as a whole. It told me that life really is fragile and there is nothing much you need to fear because life will continue to happen to you, anyway. You can only do your best and trust God. Volunteerism is not just about having a physical and mental experience that will enrich your life, but volunteerism is SPIRITUAL too. This is something you can never understand unless you experience it yourself. And trust me, you will be addicted to that experience.

(I wrote about my experience in Palu here. You may click the link H.E.R.E to read about it https://afizaazmee.wordpress.com/2018/11/01/palusulawesi-reflection-a-spiritual-journey/)

The next day the junior psychiatry MO told me “I already submitted my name as a volunteer. Feel better about it after talking to you.”

I wished her good luck and prayed for her continuous well-being as a front-liner. The last time I checked on her via Whatsapp she was doing very well and as predicted, she enjoyed the experience.

When you do something that Allah has created you to do – to be a khalifah of this world, to be of benefits to your fellow human beings, to fulfil the purpose of your creation – the sunnhatullah is such that you will feel content. Experience NEVER go to waste. It will make you such an interesting person to talk to, at the very least.

Because we are a sum of our experience.

 

We Are a Sum of Our Experience

Growing up, I admit that I got easily bored talking to people. I just could not stand the small talk that we are expected to make during kenduri, get-togethers and reunion and I would avoid having to  talk to people for an extended period of time. There was nothing for me to talk about with them. Most of them didn’t read what I read…. So what common ground did we have? Zip, zero, nada! What common area of topic and interest can we converse about? Zilch!  Bosan!  I was bored silly and I just wanted to go into my room and read the latest adventure in my next book. (But of course, my parents didn’t allow me to.)

There were times when I feel like I was more mature than my peers. I didn’t enjoy running around playing ‘police sentry one to jaga’. I just felt like “Apadia ni? Ligan-ligan, lari-lari penat… for what purpose?”. I enjoyed it as a 4 year old kid, maybe. But by the time I knew how to read (I was 5 years old), playing lari-lari no longer appealed to me.  I really did not feel it was fun. I preferred card games and chess, book-reading and story writing. So, I got easily bored with most kids my age but I did have 3 good friends in the primary school who shared my interest in reading.

As I grew up into my teenage hood, my father did not think I had enough maturity to attend a boarding school as a 13 year old girl.  I thought he was wrong… because I felt like I was matured enough to handle it. But looking back, I think my interpersonal skill was not that good. Haha. I don’t think I could survive communal living as a 13 year old because I was a very self-centred young girl. I didn’t like to share any of my stuff. I didn’t like it when people wanted to share food or drinks with me…. because I geli hahaha. And in hostel, most kids really like to take other people’s stuff and I would have made a lot of enemies if I went into the hostel environment with an attitude of obvious stinginess like that (as opposed to subtle stinginess LOL)

As a 16 year old girl, I was finally allowed to attend a boarding school of MRSM Langkawi. Even then, I had to adjust quite a bit. I made sure I had two bottles of water with me in my room… one bottle was exclusively for me and another bottle was for anyone else who randomly requested for my water. (My problem solving skill improved, see? People requesting to share my water was a problem to me hahha! But I found ways to maintain my ideal of what is hygienic while also being able to fulfil their request.)

As a teenager having to be in a communal living, I learned how to do small talk. I still preferred talking to someone who shared my interest (by this time I took up poetry writing, thanks to the influence of my roommate, Miss A) but I was no longer that awkward or that bored around people. Over time, I learned to be less self-absorbed. Previously, if things were boring TO ME, I just wanted to get out of that situation and cut the conversation short. Because I felt like, if I was bored, then of course you must feel the same way too. By cutting the conversation short or not engaging at all, I saved BOTH of us from being bored with each other. We can now go and do something else with our time. More efficient use of our resources, right?

But because of having to be in a communal living, I gradually understood the value of good-quality friendships (not just ANY friendship. But GOOD QUALITY ones, ok. Please take note.). With no family around other than hostel friends, I learned that my life was more pleasant when I had good friendships in the hostel.

Before living in a hostel and mixing with people who are not my own family, my idea of friendship was pretty rigid. “If we don’t have anything in common and therefore neither of us will be interesting to the other, then I don’t really want to spend time with you because it will be so boring.”  Peer pressure…. It did NOT really work with me. Even if I might succumb to peer pressure and societal expectation occasionally, it wouldn’t be sustainable. Sooner or later, I would have analyzed whether or not this kind of activity/behaviour/mindset MAKES SENSE and gradually I would have escaped from such pressure by choosing other friends or shift my attention to books. When some people had a whole lot of friends to always do things together (pi kantin sekali, pi toilet satu geng), I didn’t understand it. To me, it was so time-consuming and inefficient to wait for everyone to be ready before we can make a move. My idea of friendship could be described as mutual convenience… when it was not convenient, we should be able to separate for awhile. Not EVERYTHING must be done together.

Me: Kalau kau nak pergi kantin, kau pergilah kantin. Kenapa aku nak kena ikut? Aku nak pi library.

Friend: Nanti lepas pi kantin, kita pi la library. (she ‘pujuk’ me)

Me: Kau tak nak ikut pi library pun tak apa, aku tak suruh pun kau ikut. Kau pergi kantin, aku pi library. Nanti kau dah habis makan, kau datang la library. Atau kita jumpa balik kat kelas.

 

That was basically how I behaved when I was young. I didn’t feel I need to bend myself backward to change my habit in order to cultivate friendships because if problems in my life arise, I was sure I could handle it myself or my parents would handle them for me. Friendship was nice but I didn’t always need to do everything with them all the time. It did not occur to me that they might need me to do certain things with them and I should be kind whenever I could rather than thinking too much about expediency and efficiency. (Being kind…. being accommodative… those were new to me. And to be honest, I did not expect them to accommodate me – we could just do things separately –  and neither did I know that I should provide that to others when I had first joined communal living) I was like, if I can do things by myself when you guys don’t feel like doing it, why can’t you do the same thing too? Just do it by yourself if I don’t feel like doing those activities with you. More efficient, kan? Easier for everybody, isn’t it?

But when I was in the hostel of MRSM Langkawi, my friends and roommates were the ones who would help me with Add Maths, Physics and Chemistry (remember, we didn’t get to attend outside tuition as a hostel student). And some of them did not share my love of reading or writing and they were normally not someone I would feel any kind of friendship towards. But because I NEEDED them, I gradually learned how to mask my boredom, asked for their help, and sometimes I rendered my own service to them by correcting their English essays and improving their grammar.

Before I realized it, I had learned an important lesson. I shouldn’t have judged people so soon.

I. Shouldn’t. Have. Judged. People. So. Soon.

Some of these people who I would never be interested to be friends with just because they did not have similar interest as me, were actually really fun people to be around. All these while, I didn’t spend enough time to get to know people (because there were always other fun books I would rather be reading), and therefore before I could get to the point of appreciating their good qualities, I was already bored and I walked away thinking that it was too time-consuming to be their friends. Or I would think that the pros of this friendship did not outweigh the cons. But when the situation NECESSITATED me to tolerate them for awhile because I NEEDED their help, gradually I learned over time that “This girl is not that boring actually. She may not like to read. But she has other worthy quality that I could learn from. She is quite funny. How come I didn’t notice that before?”

So I compromised. “Kita pi Dewan Makan, lepas tu kita pi Library.” While having an outing, I compromised and agreed that we “go to Ismail Group for chocolate first, then we go to the book shop.” Slowly, I learned that efficiency and expediency were not the only thing I should focus on in my daily life. Sure it is more efficient to straightaway complete your task and not having to wait for others and not having to take their preferences into account. But when you are in trouble, you would have no friends to help you because you haven’t spent enough times with them for them to even bother that much about you. And that is a fatal mistake! There’s a reason why human beings are social creatures. (Look at how difficult it is for people to stay at home and NOT socialize in this current crisis of Covid-19 pandemic! We are social creatures!)Because our survival as a species depends on us having pro-social characteristics. Being sociable is a matter of survival in certain situations (but I was rarely, if ever, in a situation where being sociable is a matter of survival LOL. But yes, I had read stories and books on how knowing some important people in their lives had helped them out of a  tight situation)

(However, until now I am picky about my friendships. I cannot emphasize how important it is to have friends who are WORTHY of your compromise. I compromise my efficiency and expediency of doing things for you, because you are worth my effort. I could have gone to the library straightaway instead of waiting for you, but I wait because I know you are not comfortable eating alone. I value you that much because I know we have similar worldview, similar principles, and you are a kind-hearted person who I trust. But if you ever repeatedly do things that violate my ideals of what is right and wrong and then you do not listen to reasons and stop becoming worthy, I am no longer willing to compromise my efficiency and expediency for you.)

One of my friends had told me “If you had judged a song by its boring intro and stopped listening before getting to the beautiful chorus, you would not get an accurate impression of the ENTIRETY of the song.” (See? I have friends who talk this way. Who give me insight and correct my view and enrich my experience. This is what I mean by worthy friends.)

I didn’t understand it at first. But I get it now. You see, some people need small talk to feel at ease with other people at first. Some people need to be guided into a feeling of safety before they can feel comfortable revealing their true opinions to someone they have only just met. Everything has a beginning. A song has its intro and then a pre-chorus and then a chorus. Every story starts with an introduction to set the context, and then the story progresses to conflict, and then it reaches the exciting climax. If you are not patient with the introduction part, you will not be able to experience the exciting part.

It was my experience of living in a communal setting (first in MRSM Langkawi, and then in KMB, and subsequently having housemates while studying in Australia) that actually improved my disposition and my sociability. These days, I was always quite surprised when people described me as an extrovert. (Have I really improved that much? LOL.) They couldn’t be more wrong.  I agree that I am not a shy person and I have pretty strong opinions. But I am an introvert. No matter how much more sociable I am now, I will always need some portion of alone time at the end of the day. My weekends are for ME… to read and recharge. I will always prefer small groups over large groups. I will always be more serious than jovial. I will always prefer reading than attending kenduri. I will always take more time to warm up to people than most.

Or maybe…. I am an ambivert with a preference for solitary activities? I don’t know.

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I also attribute my improved sociability to my volunteer works throughout these years. I tolerated A LOT of small talks and boredom (during the initial ice-breaking period) because I know I could not do volunteer works alone. In doing volunteer works, you will always need other people’s help and cooperation. You have to meet members of other NGOs, you have to cooperate with leaders of the place you are volunteering in and whether you like it or not, you MUST talk to them. I look at small talk and being sociable as a SKILL SET that I need to master in order to do my work. Small talk is more tolerable now and not much of a problem these days. And trust me, anyone can do it when they practice enough!

Because we are a sum of our experience.

If we don’t seek out worthwhile experience, we will be stuck doing the same thing over and over again. There is nothing substantial to your existence. Your worries consist of every day mundane thing that do not give any special meaning to your life. When people like me meet you, we will regret spending the time tolerating your boring intro… only to find out later that even your chorus is a monotonous, dull torture.

So, when you have the chance to seek out new experience, volunteer yourself for it! Beautify your chorus! Inspire people around you!

But be warned; the side effects of having varied experience is that, you will find yourself having a higher standard of what constitutes a worthy chorus. Over time, you will be more picky with who your friends are and who you spend your time with.

Civilization & Volunteerism

One of the first signs of a civilized society is having its members being helpful to each other.

I could not demonstrate this point better than by asking you to read this insightful excerpt below, taken from an article written by Remy Blumenfeld.

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Years ago, the anthropologist Margaret Mead was asked by a student what she considered to be the first sign of civilization in a culture. The student expected Mead to talk about clay pots, tools for hunting, grinding-stones, or religious artifacts.

But no. Mead said that the first evidence of civilization was a 15,000 years old fractured femur found in an archaeological site. A femur is the longest bone in the body, linking hip to knee. In societies without the benefits of modern medicine, it takes about six weeks of rest for a fractured femur to heal. This particular bone had been broken and had healed.

Mead explained that in the animal kingdom, if you break your leg, you die. You cannot run from danger, you cannot drink or hunt for food. Wounded in this way, you are meat for your predators. No creature survives a broken leg long enough for the bone to heal. You are eaten first.

A broken femur that has healed is evidence that another person has taken time to stay with the fallen, has bound up the wound, has carried the person to safety and has tended them through recovery. A healed femur indicates that someone has helped a fellow human, rather than abandoning them to save their own life.

Isn’t that amazing? Helping fellow human being is the first sign of civilization!

So, volunteer and help your society! It is a marker of a civilized person.

Stay Home

And right now, it is very easy for everyone to do their part in helping their society. Sacrifice your freedom of movement for a while in favour of staying at home. That’s all it takes.

Let us, the health care workers, stay at work for you. All you have to do is stay at home to help reduce the spread of this Covid-19 pandemic.

stay at home

I understand that you might be bored at home. But this is a very ideal time for you to beautify your chorus! I have mentioned before that your chorus is made beautiful by your experience. But experience can also be gained indirectly by reading books that you would not have the time to read without this lockdown. Read inspiring stories! Read autobiography! Read fiction! Enrich your life experience by reading about things you never knew before. Or if you don’t like to read, watch documentaries! That works too!

If you are a parent, maybe this is a time to teach your children to master a particular school subject beyond his/her syllabus. When I was a child, my father would teach me the next year’s syllabus just to make it easy for me to master my subjects later. And it was really quite helpful.

My nephew, Eshan, who is only 9 years old is trained by my sister (a statistician and a lecturer) to do a mathematical task that I had only learned as a secondary school student. I am so proud of this little man. As my very first nephew, Eshan occupies a very special place in my heart. I have such a gooey soft spot for Eshan, right there at the centre of my chest. (Soppy, I know. LOL)

 

I think I am a very cool aunty to all my nephews and nieces. (Hahhah perasan! But this is proven by the fact that they love hanging out in my room so much whenever they ‘balik kampung’. No other rooms hold allure to them but mine. So, bersepah bilik aku diorang kerjakan. It spoke volume of my patience that I tolerated that from them, okay? Haha) I used to feel despair whenever they cried while I was baby-sitting them when they were around 1-2 years old. I would quickly give them back to my sisters whenever they wailed loudly. I didn’t enjoy being an aunty then because they couldn’t talk, they didn’t have any meaningful fun play and I was bored and wanted to continue my reading.

But as they grew up, I could relate with them better. We could play games; Eshan and Aayra are very good at scrabble, chess and card games and they love playing verbal fluency games with me (and sometimes they beat me too!) I could tell them stories. Or we could go out to the movies (Now that their mothers trust me more to take care of their kids LOL. But not more than one at a time LOL). But kids below the age of 4 years old just hate me even when we are blood related. My siblings told me it was because of my eyes. “Scary, garang, mencerlang.” (Of course I don’t believe them. There is nothing wrong with my eyes.)

So yeah parents out there…. I suggest that you play games with your children at home and engage their minds and their intellect. But if your kids are younger than 4 years old, I also have no idea how to engage with them. You have to come up with the idea yourself because I am hopeless with really young kids! Haha.

Books Of The Month

The first book I would like to talk about this month is written by a very famous thriller novelist by the name of Dean Koontz. I had read a few of his books over the years but I stopped for awhile because I told myself that I need to read more non-fiction to increase my general knowledge.

But his book by the title of The Eyes of Darkness was made famous for the past 2 months because it was said that Dean Koontz had predicted the occurrence of the Corona virus. And the book was written in the 80s!

Let me show you the “evidence” that has been circulating around to say that Dean Koontz had predicted this Covid-19 event.

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This has been circulating around in the internet!

So, you see, I was so curious and I wanted to read this book. But because I could not find it anywhere (it was, after all, published in 1981, more than 3 decades ago. I wasn’t even born yet!) so I then downloaded it from an online library that I was a member of.

I must say that I prefer Dean Koontz current style of writing compared to how he wrote decades ago. But I guess, every author must be allowed to gain experience and some polish before they can write excellently. Having said that, the plot was actually quite good.

The synopsis (spoiler alert!):

A young mother had been mourning the death of her son for the past 1 year. Her son passed away in an accident together with other kids in a camping trip. The mother was discouraged from seeing her son because she was told that her son’s body was very badly mangled, and therefore they had a closed-casket funeral. However, one year later, strange things started to occur around this young mother. She started to doubt her sanity and her own perception because of the poltergeist-like occurrences in her house.  She attributed these strange events to grief and lack of closure secondary to not looking at his son before he was buried. So the young mother requested for the body to be exhumed to help her get some closure. However, the moment when she requested for the exhumation of her son’s body, FBI/secret agents/ secret police started to hound her. She and her lawyer boyfriend (who also conveniently happened to be an ex-spy LOL) tried to get to the bottom of the mystery. They finally found out that her son was actually alive and was held at this lab as a test subject to study the effects of a virus originating from Wuhan. All those strange things that happened to this young mother was because her son had developed telekinetic and telepathic ability after being infected by the virus. Her son had been trying to send a message to her to rescue him from  this lab.

I give this book 3 out of 5 stars (I was engaged enough. But I felt like his style of writing was not much to my liking compared to his later works.)

Would I recommend this book to my readers? Well, if you are curious enough to know whether Dean Koontz really did predict the arrival of Covid-19, you can read it too. I downloaded this book from an online library I was a member of. I don’t think you can find any new prints of the book nowadays. If you are interested to read this book, let me know, and I will give you the link to the website via email. (You have to become a member of that online library, though. And I am only willing to share the link to those who are REALLY into books. I am too selfish to share that online library to everyone because my experience tells me that when something becomes popular, they will start charging you the price of your membership. So I might as well share that website with those who are only seriously interested)

So the question remains… had Dean Koontz REALLY predicted the arrival of this deadly corona virus? Haha. An article discussing this topic is already available in Google. So jangan malas, google it yourself 😛

the translator

The next book I had read in this month was a memoir written by Daoud Hari, a Zaghawa tribesman who had worked as a translator for various reporters who were covering the civil war and genocide in Darfur.

He had lived through a harrowing experience after being captured by the Sudanese Government in one of his translating mission with Paul Salopek, a renowned reporter who was on an assignment from National Geographic.

The whole story was basically about his Zaghawa background in Darfur, his various assignments as a translator and how he was finally captured by the Sudan government. Fortunately, while working as a translator, he had made a lot of useful friends, most of them are International reporters who knew powerful people. They helped releasing him from capture and he finally escaped to the US and wrote this memoir (See? This is an example of how cultivating good relationship with others is a matter of survival. Never experienced this kind of situation myself. Because I will always take precaution against needing someone for survival matters. But this kind of situation can certainly befall you. When you are in that tight spot, having a solid network of relationship is an absolute advantage.)

 I give this book 2.5 out of 5 stars. It was pretty average to me. I have read better memoirs of similar experience. I was not engaged enough throughout the reading. I think there was a lack of balance between facts and sentiments.

And this is the problem with writing memoirs. You cannot have too much facts, or the story becomes too dry. You cannot have too much sentiments, or else the context and the message would be overshadowed by too much emotion. You must have the amount just right. And I guess, this is the problem with this book. I need more sentiments to be there so that I can be more invested in the outcome of the story.

But by the end of the book, I wasn’t invested enough. I was simply glad to finish reading it so that I could move on to  the next interesting book.

Still, you guys might want to judge for yourself. How about reading other reviews about this book in Goodreads website before deciding whether this book is worth your money and time? Who knows, you might like reading this book!

Until next time, my dear readers. May Allah deliver us safely out of this Covid-19 catastrophe. #StaySafe #StayAtHome. Much love and may Allah bless all of us.

Happy New Year 2020: A New Year Rant!

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Wishing everyone a blessed year ahead.

Dear readers,

I hope it is not too late for me to wish everyone a Happy New Year. Truly, I have given up making any sort of New Year Resolutions because it has been made clear to me year after year that I truly do embody the true spirit of hangat-hangat tahi ayam. And therefore, I have given up on having yearly goals or resolutions.

I only have short-term agendas… daily agenda, weekly agenda, monthly agenda and so on and so forth.  And my resolution is to cross off the list of my agendas and just get things done within the time I have stipulated for myself.

And that is why I am particular about time. Because I have daily goals to achieve. Even if the goal is as simple as to finish my latest fiction, or to finish reading the latest journal article suggested by the Royal College or just to finish writing an article for my blog (Remember that I have a monthly agenda of one blog post per month. And included in that agenda is to finish at least 2-3 books per month so that I could write about them in my blog post in the section of Book Of The Month at the end of each blog post.)

So yearly resolution doesn’t do much good for me. Never have I ever lost the weight I wanted to lose at the beginning of the year LOL.  Instead I have my “let’s try to jog and sweat more today” days and my “I just want to eat Secret Recipe cakes and Baskin Robbins ice cream” days. These two types of days are of equal importance to me. Because… it’s about balance, guys… right?

Never have I ever been a good, obedient daughter for the whole year. But instead I have my good daughter “I am a blessing to my parents” days and my bad daughter “Poor my parents, I am giving them the worst kind of headache” days. LOL.

Never have I ever been a good, sociable friend who is always available for everyone all year round and will attend all kenduri invitations and get-together events. Instead I have my “let’s try to socialize more today” days and my “I really just want to be at home and read and do my own thing” days.

Never have I ever for the whole year been diplomatic and soft spoken always. But I have my “I can be patient about this for a little while and will try to respect your authority even though I think you are making a wrong decision” mood and my “I absolutely cannot tolerate this and will argue till kingdom come if you don’t withdraw your faulty decision no matter who you are in your position” mood. (In general, this involves people doing something unacceptable that I think violates my sense of justice, fair treatment and good conduct. I cannot be patient about that. But I have learned to pick and choose my battle these days. Because… priority, guys!)

So I find that daily renewal of good intention works better for me. Because I am human. I am not infallible. I forget my intention. I forget my purpose sometimes. And I am thankful that I am surrounded by people who can metaphorically whack my head when I am being a pain in the proverbial backside.

You see, I choose my friends carefully. I have inspiring friends all around me. I have friends who have such a similar view with me that she will fight side by side with me or support me if I choose to pick up a battle. I have friends who teach me to be patient and diplomatic when I am so upset I forget to hold my tongue. I have friends with whom I can talk for hours about anything heavy or light-hearted that we are insensible to the passing of the time. I have friends who are so strong that they can face trials in life multiple times and they can still get up from their falls, forge ahead and able to make it in the end. I have friends who enjoy adventurous stuff so that we can travel to earthquake-ridden places and do meaningful volunteer works when we feel like it. I have friends who share similar worldview with me that we will marvel for hours over a cup of coffee on why most people don’t think the way we do. LOL.

In short, I have inspiring friends whom I can learn from and I can emulate.

I do not place myself in a position of having friends with negative attitude and negative mindset. If I sense from the very beginning that you will weigh me down with all your “unprincipled, pemalas, kerja cincai, tak tepati masa, kaki bodek, negative about others all the time,” I will still treat you with distant politeness but you do not fit into my inner circle.

I truly hold on to this hadeeth below:

The Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) said:

“A good friend and a bad friend are like a perfume-seller and a blacksmith: The perfume-seller might give you some perfume as a gift, or you might buy some from him, or at least you might smell its fragrance. As for the blacksmith, he might singe your clothes, and at the very least you will breathe in the fumes of the furnace.”

(Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 3, Hadith 314)

As a doctor, our clinical practice is based on evidence-based guidelines. As a Muslim, our whole life has been guided by the Quran and the Hadeeth  though I am not perfect (FAR from perfect) in following all of them. But when it comes to choosing friends and my close companions, I do follow this hadeeth strictly. Because I believe that the impact of friends on you is significant. At the end of the day, you must have enough strength of character to walk away from bad friends because otherwise, they will affect you little by little and before you realize it, you have changed.

It is true that good people around you can influence your behaviours. I credit my much improved patience now to my calm, amiable, friendly friends that I met in Australia. If God had left me to my own devices, I think I would not be able to moderate my temperament and would still be that tiresome argumentative child who just wants to win and have the last word (even though one can argue that I still retain that tiresome traits until now LOL. But in my own defense, I really did believe that I was right when I was being argumentative. If you do not have the oratory skills to convince me, how would I know that I was wrong?) Their calm, logical, kind understanding in answering all my questions… I had never met someone like them before I went to Australia. I don’t think I have ever told them about how much they have impacted my worldview about life and about religion… maybe if they still read my blog, at least they will know.

There are still so much room for improvement in me… but really, this is a much better version of me. This is Afiza version 3.0 ha ha ha.

A review of 2019 & The Beginning of A Rant (LOL)

2019 had been full of ups and downs. But I managed to complete my MRCPsych exam in 2019. So that was something major in 2019 for me to be thankful for and to be jovial about. That was the goal I had successfully achieved last year, Alhamdulillah. #AchievementUnlocked #MoveOnToTheNextLevel

But what’s next?

 

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I received an offer from Athona recruitment centre in the UK to become a psychiatrist there around 2 weeks after passing my exam. At first, I ignored the email from the recruitment centre because I didn’t think I wanted to work in the UK. My whole family is in Malaysia and I wanted to remain in Malaysia. But later, when the social media was abuzz with the news that critical allowance for newly appointed doctors would be abolished, I found myself staring at the email from the recruitment centre again. I found myself evaluating the idea of moving to the UK and continue working there.

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Solidarity for junior doctors!

I was wondering whether I should really give up on Malaysia.

I have experienced a lot of…. well, dissatisfaction… about a lot of things. I am wondering if I could be a better doctor somewhere else, if I could do more somewhere else…where the system is superior, the allied health workers are enough and functioning, and the admin is reasonable when you lodge a complaint against any staff who does not treat your patient professionally.  Truthfully… there are times when I am tired of working in Malaysia. It’s not about the money. It’s never about the money because I am relatively financially free with no responsibility to anyone other than myself, Alhamdulillah. When I say I am financially free, I am not saying that I am rich… because I am not, LOL. But then, I don’t need to be rich. I am content. My freedom is my greatest treasure ever. I can speak up and challenge authority if I am so inclined because I know that should anyone try to oppress me unfairly, I can fight them back. If I lose the fight, I can afford to tender my resignation (after first creating a lot of havoc and probably dragging that person to court. LOL. But most people do not push me  that far.) This is the reason I choose MRCPsych. I have more options in where I can work if I have had enough of Malaysian bureaucracy. And the freedom that comes with a world-recognized qualification is a bliss.

Alhamdulillah, thank God that He had placed me in a job I love. Going to work is not even a job for me…. but a vocation. If I ever decide to leave KKM and go to the UK, it will not be about the money.

It will be about having to be under the thumb of foolish people in the admin side who discriminate the psychiatry field in the way that they deal with problematic staffs. Sometimes these admin people let dysfunctional staffs with criminal-like behaviour to continue working in psychiatry when the same kind of behavior in another department would not have been tolerated and would have caused them to be transferred out from that department pronto. (And these rejected staffs from other departments got transferred to PSY Department most of the times! And then this kind of staffs continue to create havoc in PSY department but when we complain about them, the admin people will not bother transferring them out from PSY department. The double standard is abominable!)

It’s also about dealing with rigid, bureaucratic red tape set by KKM admin who sit around making decisions about us without discussing their (unfair) decisions with us first. It’s also about the increasing pressure of being oppressed in which the burden of work is increasing (has there ever been a time when doctors’ burden of work is decreasing?) but the privileges and the allowances are abolished (or are being discussed and debated for abolishment). They have revoked their decision to abolish critical allowance for now, but who knows what else they would try to take away from us in the future?

On a larger scale of disenchantment, Pakatan Harapan proves to be disappointing to most of us who had worked really hard as a PACA in the last GE14. There are so many issues that have made us wonder on whether or not we should vote for BN in the next GE. Despite thinking this way, I never regret choosing Pakatan Harapan in GE14. The message we sent to the politicians was crystal clear. You cannot take for granted the loyalty of our votes if you do a poor job of governing the country. BN got the message already in the last GE14.

Maybe PH needs the same message as well during the next GE. Hmm? Maybe for the next GE, I will be a PACA for BN pula? LOL. My maternal aunty (whose house has been a BN Bilik Gerakan in Sedaka for decades) will be pleased about that, I am sure. She was so upset at my parents, myself and my siblings when we voted against BN during the last GE.

Let us be demanding of our government to deliver high quality governance. We can keep on switching our votes between various different parties till the end of days if we have to. That’s why I am not a member of any political party. I choose who to support based on issues. Not because I am a member of any political organization. I wish to stay objective and unbiased. I don’t believe in misplaced loyalty and unconditional love to any person or organization. My love and loyalty will always be conditional upon you being a good and worthy person. Because I don’t like to waste my time and my resources. (My INTJ traits could not have borne it! We loathe inefficiency in anything or anyone).

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The same reason : The craps that they accumulate if they are not changed often.

Ex-Education Minister

A lot of people in my Facebook newsfeed had expressed sadness and dissatisfaction about Dr.Maszlee having to resign from his post as Education Minister. I didn’t express any feeling whatsoever about this because I believe that if he is really good, he will make a comeback. In fact, he will come back stronger and wiser if he learned from this experience. Even Tun M was expelled from UMNO once upon a time because he was too loud in his criticism against Tun Abdul Rahman, remember? And yet he is our PM twice over. Sometimes, things happened so that you can internalize the lessons that you would not have learned, otherwise. He has a lot of loyal supporters. Insya Allah, he will make a comeback.

I do believe that Maszlee is a good person but I did not always agree with all his statements and actions. When most people in my Facebook newsfeed were shocked about Dr. Maszlee having to resign from his post as Education Minister, I was not all that surprised by the news. I had predicted it in my previous blog post.

Below is the snippet of my previous blog post by the title of ‘Truly Non-Partisan’ :

Nowadays, Dr. Maszlee has received criticism right, left and centre! He has nothing to lose if he just says “We will abolish vernacular schools. The standard 1 batch who first enters the new education system will no longer be subjected to any quota system when they are applying for matriculation, 10-11 years from now. We hope to promote unity between races by abolishing vernacular schools as well abolishing quotas between races.” 

But what did he do instead? He said  something to the effect of “Quota should be there because even job openings are discriminatory. Private companies only hire mandarin-speaking candidates.” Gosh! Is he saying that one act of discrimination justifies the use of another act of discrimination?! “Oh sebab hangpa discriminate kami dalam pekerjaan, so kami discriminate korang dengan quota lah.” OMG…. no wise politician will say something like that!

Politicians should have basic debating skills, in my opinion.  Rather than comparing quota with job discrimination, you should compare quota with vernacular schools…. because the existence of quota is part of Hak Bumiputera. And if Bumiputera have to sacrifice their rights, then the non-bumiputera must also sacrifice their vernacular schools. Barulah comparable kat situ, faham tak? Barulah kau tak kena bash! Dan kalau kau kena bash pun, at least it will be for a WORTHY statement and a WORTHY move!

If  you are interested, you can read the whole article in the post ‘Truly Non-Partisan’. But basically, I had written about how unsatisfied I was that he did not put his foot down and be firm about abolishing vernacular schools. How he was seen to be focusing on frivolous issues. It’s good that he is concerned about Pendidikan Untuk Semua especially concerning OKU kids… but get it done in a single-stream school. It’s good that he upgraded schools in the rural area and all… that can happen while prioritizing single-stream school too. It’s good that he is concerned about ‘beban kerja guru’…. again beban kerja guru could be dealt with while also making the bigger and more important change of having a single stream school.

Tackle the most important priority, first! The problem in Malaysia is racial disunity secondary to childhood racial segregation in schools! At least, even if you ended up making so many enemies that you had to step down, it would have been for a worthy cause. But now even without touching vernacular schools… he still had to step down anyway. What a shame.

Leadership is not about trying to please everyone (but ended up making every faction hates you anyway because of your lack of firmness). It is about doing the right thing, even if you please no one. When you do the right thing, even if you get a backlash from it, at least you will be satisfied and content. But when you try to compromise and please everyone, sometimes the strategy will backfire on you and at the same time you don’t even get the satisfaction of having done the right thing. For example:

  • Go ahead and be firm about learning Jawi in schools. Even if you had to displease the Chinese and the Indians, insist on learning Jawi because it has been decided. Tapi tiba-tiba daripada 6 muka surat jawi… tinggal 3 muka surat. Because you want to compromise and please everyone. But what happened instead? The Malays are very displeased because it was supposed to be 6 pages. And the Chinese/Indians are still displeased because they don’t even want to learn 3 pages of jawi! What did you get? None of the races are happy with you! At least if you had stick to your gun and insist that we are sticking to 6 pages of Jawi…. because you believe that this is the right thing to do (otherwise why would you have made that decision in the first place)… you will still please the Malays. But when you reduced the learning of Jawi to 3 pages, hoping to appease other races (but at the same time trying to comfort the Malays that Jawi will still be taught albeit with a reduced number of pages), every race is angry at you! Nampak tak how being Mr. Nice Guy to EVERYONE will backfire on us! Just do what you believe as right. Because when you do what you believe as right, that intention of yours please God. Don’t try to please others because there are so many of them who have their own conflict of interests that you can never please everyone. There’s a lot of freedom in knowing that you don’t have to please anyone else other than God. Try it sometime, okay? You might get so addicted to that freedom, you will never go back to being a Mr-Nice-Guy-To-Everyone again. #Leadership101
  • Go ahead and defend tanglung at schools because CNY is a cultural celebration and not a religious one. Defend tanglung even if you had to displease the Malays. (Tapi yang ni, pandai pula PH Government defend bagai nak rak. Isu jawi pula diorang macam tak ada spine!)

 

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When it comes to Jawi, you said PIBG’s decision was the reason not to implement it. How about Tanglung? It was the PIBG who decided to get rid of the tanglung! This is a rather obvious inconsistent reasoning!

  • You want to enforce the rule of no smoking in public premises to please the non-smoking public. But then you ambivalently flip flop and decided to allow a smoking area in the restaurants to cater to smokers. Seriously… whaaatt??

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Create a pattern of leadership that is so fair and so firm in its fairness no matter who is displeased, that you inspire respect in your leadership.

And I am not saying this only about Dr. Maszlee. But the whole laughable PH government is an epitome of spinelessness. I think the young generation is getting very disillusioned about this country. Part of me feel like I should have stayed in Australia when I had the chance.

I am a very patriotic person. But when the fate of our country lies in politicians whose honour is questionable at best, the inclination to pack up and get out is very strong.

Why do I say their honour is questionable?

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Well…if I were a politician, I certainly would not have hired political aides who are involved in drug parties. (Remember the hadeeth?) And I certainly would not want someone who commit adultery/sodomy to be among my trusted circle and working with me in developing my political career. In order for me to work with you, I need to know that I can trust and respect your integrity. I make it compulsory that if I am going to have to deal with you day in and day out, you better buck up and deserve my friendship and the trust that comes with it. I don’t want to waste my time having to deal with the complication of your dubious character. Time should be spent focusing on things that matter. Not dealing with bad behavior of undeserving people in your life that makes your life difficult to the point that you spend the bulk of your time settling headache-inducing personal issues, when you could have spent your time doing important things that would make a difference; things that would give you a reward in this life and the hereafter.

When it comes to dealing with my subordinates, I don’t go around checking the whereabouts of my HOs or my staffs every single minute of their working hours. I have better stuff to do with my time. But I want things to be done within the stipulated time that we had discussed. I will check and follow up on what I had asked them to do. I want them to show results without me having to micro-manage their time. You can keluar ambil anak from school or do whatever you have to do as long as you deliver progress and good results in your work. Tapi kalau kau pemalas, kau tak berdisiplin, kau suka buat pesakit atau kau tak buat kerja sampai pesakit under your care banyak relapse…. You should be sacked out of your department! Don’t demotivate other staffs around you who had to put up with your behavior.

As a leader, they must start learning the concept of Pygmalion effect. People deliver something better, because YOU expect something better! People will try to meet your standard because you expect it from them and will not put up with anything less.

As simple as that.

So why did you expect low?

 

***

The Worrying Global Trend Of Religious & Racial Persecution

Things that are happening to Uyghurs in China and to Muslims in India and Kashmir…. they are very disheartening.

In our own country, racial issues are fired up constantly and consistently.

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Modi’s government wants India’s Muslims to prove their Indianness because their faith renders it suspect.  Seriously!

Some of fellow Malaysians of Indian race had dared to question Tun M’s stand to continue to criticize India, because now India had retaliated by not buying our palm oil. And some of these ‘Malaysians’ who are still LOYAL to India are saying things like “Take care of the economy of your own country first and guard your mouth, Tun M.”

Wow…. their priority is certainly skewed.

So, I then wrote this Facebook status. I hope my message is clear. Jangan main dengan api just because the majority is silent. I am certainly not the silent type when I have had enough.

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One of my friends were saying to me, “Aku tak berani nak tulis some of the Facebook status that you had written even though I agree with you. Facebook aku ada kawan-kawan India, Cina…. aku takut depa offended.”

I have said it before. I say the truth even if people don’t like it. I am not responsible for your hurt feelings. I certainly do have Chinese and Indian friends in my Facebook as well as in real life and in our day-to-day life, we get along well and respect each other!

But this is political! Everybody will have their own political opinion which may be influenced by their race or their religion.

But regardless of which race or religion you are, justice is a universal concept! Regardless of which race or religion you are, FACTS are facts!

Below are the facts!

In China, the main culture/religion is Buddhism, and they speak Chinese languages (Mandarin/Cantonese/Hokkien etc), and the Chinese students take exams based on the syllabus in their own country which has been tailored to suit the Chinese values, Chinese culture and Chinese philosophy. Can a Muslim whose Malaysian ancestors had migrated to China demand that the Chinese Government recognize her SPM qualification (based on the Malaysian syllabus) so that she could enter universities in China? How is that fair to other citizens who took different kind of exams? #SayNoToUEC

Likewise, in India, the main culture/religion/language is not Islam or Arabic…. it is Hindu as the religion of the majority and Hindi language is the official language. Can a Muslim whose ancestors had migrated from Saudi Arabia demand that the India Government recognize her exam qualification based on Saudi Arabia’s syllabus in order for her to enter Indian Universities?

In Europe, the Western values is the dominant culture and Christian is the main religion. Before going to study in Australia, I took International Baccalaureate (IB) qualification before I can enter Newcastle University! Should I have demanded that they recognize my SPM, instead? I could sure try, if I wanted to be a barrel of laughs!

In the Middle East, the main culture is Arabic and the language is Arabic. I am sure they too have their own system!

In EVERY region and EVERY country, there is one dominant culture and one dominant religion and one official/dominant language. This is the country’s identity! Every country has ONE dominant identity which is usually influenced by the culture and religion of the majority! #FactsOfLifeInThisWorld  Please get this into your head!

In Malaysia, that dominant identity and that dominant culture is the Malay culture and the official religion in this country is Islam… but we didn’t stop you from practicing your own culture and religion! But respect to the dominant culture and the dominant religion must be there! You do not get to demand EQUALITY of all religions and cultures in Malaysia. Just like other minorities in other countries also cannot (and DID NOT!!) demand EQUAL recognition of their own cultures and religious practices in that country. As long as they can practice their religion and culture without disturbance, they do not demand that everything about their culture and religion is treated equally with the dominant culture/religion. In fact, they assimilated! Some of the Chinese and Indians in Australia could not even speak their mother tongues, and they have Western values and they adopt the Western culture.

Sure, Barack Obama who is a black American had been the US President for two terms. But don’t try to compare that situation with Malaysia by saying stupid things out of context such as “Malaysia is so backward… in the US,  they already have a Black president. Kat Malaysia, kenapa orang Cina/India tak boleh jadi PM? So racist!”

Hang on, guys! Barack Obama didn’t speak Swahili… he speaks perfect English. And his culture and religion are Western and Christian. He has assimilated! THAT is the difference!

He is so assimilated that people were not worried that someone like him was going to be the President of a white-majority country… because they were very confident that it wouldn’t affect their way of life in any way, shape or form. But can you imagine if Barack Obama speaks hesitant English, and more fluent in Arabic than in English, and is a practicing Muslim rather than a practicing Christian, whose values are Eastern rather than Western…. would he have been the US President? Think about it! Be fair in your judgment!

So if you want to be a Malaysian PM, come and join us and assimilate with us… starting from learning with us in a similar environment at schools during childhood. Tapi kalau itu pun kau tak boleh buat, tiba-tiba nak demand jadi PM Malaysia? Are you out of your mind? Who would vote for you to be Malaysian PM in a Malay-mojority country? This is not about being racist. This is about understanding facts and contexts! In Australia, MOST members of parliament are WHITE…. hardly any Asians or Muslims or Indians can be an MP despite them having assimilated completely with the Australian culture. Most of them don’t speak their own mother tongues and hardly know anything about being Asian or being Indian. And yet, they are much less represented!

Compare that situation to Malaysia where there are SO MUCH MORE Indians and Chinese who are MPs.  I and many Malays certainly would vote for a PM who is a Chinese Muslim like Brother Firdaus Wong. I am sure a lot of Malays would vote for an Indian Muslim like Brother Shah Kirit to be a PM… because we feel like they have assimilated perfectly with the culture of the majority! They would not suddenly question Islamic practices or the fact that Islam is the official religion of the country. Sebab tulah Barack Obama boleh jadi presiden US…. because he assimilated! #PoliticalScience101 Kalau benda simple macam ni kau tak boleh grasp (or maybe it is actually too complicated for you?), how can you have the maturity to be a PM?

Below is  an introduction to the wit of Brother Wong, to those who have never known him.

When you go to the Western countries, pandai pula kau tak demand vernacular schools kat sana. There are so many Indians/Chinese living in the UK or the US…. but why does no one demand for the UK or the US government to recognize their syllabus based on their country of ethnic origin? Why do you dare to insist on your vernacular schools when you are in Malaysia but not when you are in the Western countries? Perhaps minorities in the Western countries are more reasonable and they know not to cross boundaries. They know their place, their rights and their limitations. So, I reiterate #SayNoToUEC

Nak dapat cuti CNY/Deepavali… jangan haraplah kalau kat Australia! During Eid day pun aku pergi lecture hall ok! Nak bina kuil, rampas tanah orang suka-suka hati kat Western countries, kau berani ke? Kau ingat negara tak ada undang-undang??

If I ever decide to migrate to the UK, I would NEVER behave like some of the minority extremists here in Malaysia. Because in Islam, we are taught #FiqhMinoriti (Fiqh Al-Alqalliyyat or Jurisprudence of Muslim Minorities). Did you know that in Syariah Law, Muslims minority must follow the law of the land they reside in? Otherwise, we have the options to berhijrah. Simple kan? We will still do the actions required in our 5 pillars of Islam (rukun Islam; namely shahada, praying, zakat, fasting, hajj pilgrimage) but we are not asked to change the law of the land to be in accordance to Islam.

But when we are in a Muslim-majority country, we are obliged to uphold the Islamic Law without trampling on the rights of the minority. And Malaysia is a Muslim-majority country!

“Fiqh al-Aqalliyyat”—the jurisprudence of Muslim minorities—is a legal doctrine introduced in the 1990s by Taha Jabir Al-Alwani and Yusuf Al-Qaradawi which asserts that Muslim minorities, especially those residing in the West, deserve a special new legal discipline to address their unique religious needs that differ from those of Muslims residing in Islamic countries.

According to Taha, “While Muslims in Muslim Countries are obliged to uphold the Islamic Law of their state, Muslim minorities in the United States are not required either by the Islamic Law or rationality to uphold Islamic symbols of faith in a secular state, except to the extent permissible within that state.”

But there will be extremists in any religion and any race. We certainly do get Muslim extremists in  the West too. And in Malaysia… there are minority extremists who are being given a wide publicity by the local media. My question is, what are you playing at? Are you trying to burn the country to the ground with racism and racial hatred?

So, if you are wondering why I can write controversial stuff in my Facebook my answer is…. “Kenapa kita kena senyap bila ada orang lain tengah propagate for falsehood, wanting something beyond their rights? Kenapa diorang boleh cakap lepas dan mulut capoi macam dengan apa dan post kat Facebook benda yang salah? Tapi kita tak boleh propagate benda yang betul? Kau boleh terima ke bila ada Malaysian biadap yang cakap jangan menyibuk soal India… jangan sibuk speak up bila Indian Government discriminate orang Muslim kat sana just because our palm oil will be boycotted? Economy first, before humanity and justice…. is that it? Religious persecution is okay ke… as long as our palm oil can be sold to India? I cannot accept that. So kalau orang boleh berani tulis benda yang salah, kenapa aku  tak boleh tulis benda yang betul!”

I posted what I believe as right! That’s my answer to why I don’t care whose feelings are hurt by what I write.

If you are hurt by the truth, you are the problem. Not me.

***

Book Of The Month

In the month of December, I had finished 5 books; 3 fictions and 2 non-fictions. But I would like to write only  about the non-fiction ones because I think these two books are quite beneficial to be read by my readers.

Some of my patients had asked me about what books should they read that would motivate them. And usually, I would be at a loss to recommend one for them. You see, the truth is, I do not set out to motivate myself by reading motivational books. I find that they are too contrived and they are trying too hard to motivate us in an unnatural way to the point that they sound unrealistic. I read fictions…. on justice, on quests, on hardship and difficulties… in which the hero would win in the end after facing so many trials and tribulations. To me, THAT is motivating.

So I don’t read books like ‘Chicken Soup For The Soul’… Or books like ‘The Power of Positive Thinking’ or ‘How To Win Friends And Influence People’. I mean… I guess, they are alright but they are not my cup of tea. I was never able to finish them and have given up buying them.Those kind of books are too… instructive, for me. Too contrived. Like I have to follow a manual instead of leading my life naturally. LOL.

So, I didn’t know what to recommend my patients if they asked me for that kind of books because I don’t read them, in general.

But one day I came across an instagram page of Mizi Wahid and I kind of like the things he posted. Later I found out that he had authored a book by the title of The Art Of Letting God. I bought this book in Senai Airport at the price of  RM50, and for  a 147-pages hard-cover book, I must say it was a great purchase.

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This book is for Muslims who are looking for inspiration, motivation and the strength to let go of their past hurt and regrets. And it is the Muslim version of evidence-based practice (i.e, dalil-based) for letting go and letting God. I certainly enjoyed reading it and I finished them in 2-3 days. It does intrigue my mind and challenge my thoughts in certain things and that is quite rare to happen for me these days. For example in Chapter 9 “Leave Your Enemies To Him”… hahha…. I had a long thought about that. Because my core belief is Justice.

Let me quote some of the sentences in this Chapter:

In Islam, the choice to avenge a wrongdoing is a valid one. It is an option as long as the “retaliation” is equal or less than what was done to you. But there are other options too. And they are: the choice to be compensated and the choice to forgive the wrongdoer.

I will never be able to talk about forgiveness until you first acknowledge that avenging a wrongndoing is also a valid course of action! Most motivational books would jump straight to “Forgiveness of Others” as though the wish to be avenged is unnatural. But Mizi Wahid took a balanced approach. He had rightly stated that being compensated and being avenged is also a valid option. It does celebrate our natural human nature of seeking justice. And only AFTER talking about justice, he talked about forgiveness. That is very good…. very palatable to someone like me.

Don’t you just HATE it when some ‘budget bagus’ preacher talk about forgiveness without talking about justice? So impractical and so devoid of any understanding of human nature! Padahal dia sendiri pun mulut boleh tahan and taklah automatically forgive orang. Ha ha.

I like something real, genuine and practical. Don’t sound pretentiously religious when actually the reality is different. I tend to question your intention if I don’t trust your holier-than-thou tone.

So I do recommend my readers to read this book by Mizi Wahid, The Art Of Letting God. I think this is one of the motivational books that are less pretentious compared to many others out there. And like I said, it is dalil-based (evidence-based).

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The next book I would like to talk about is Labyrinths by Catrine Clay. I bought this book in Alor Star during the Big Bad Wolf book sale last October. The reason I bought this book was because it is related to my career in psychiatry.

This is about Carl Gustav Jung and his marriage to Emma Jung and the early days of psychoanalysis. Even Sigmund Freud made an appearance in this book and he was like a father-figure to Carl Jung…until finally Carl Jung departed from Freud due to their disagreement about one aspect of psychoanalysis… namely the psychosexual part of psychoanalysis.

After reading this book, I had a clearer idea on how psychoanalysis was practiced in the early days and frankly, I am not impressed by how very unscientific their methods were.

Below is a table outlining the differences between Carl Jung’s assumptions and Freud’s assumptions (Nama pun assumptions, ok!)

Screenshot 2020-01-17 10.31.57

I find this book is particularly illuminating when it comes to personal anecdotes of Carl Jung’s life and childhood (he was sexually abused). There were some questions on whether or not he might have suffered from Bipolar?

It was interesting to know about the ménage à trois between Carl Jung, Emma Jung and Toni Wolff. I felt so sorry for Emma Jung about that.

In this biography, Carl Jung was depicted to have had multiple romantic relationships with his patients. For someone who should know better about transference, he certainly didn’t give a damn. There had been times when he continued to encourage romantic feelings in his patients.

I find that at the end of the book, I could not respect Carl Jung as a person. Maybe as a psychiatrist he deserved some recognition and respect. But on the whole, I find that he is not up to the ethical standard that should be expected from a psychiatrist. I wonder if the ethic governing doctors back then was much different than now.

But do I recommend this book to my readers? Well, I recommend psychiatrists and psychiatry MOs and psychologists to read this book. But I don’t recommend it to the general public.  Because you guys might have a wrong idea about psychiatry when you read the unscientific nature of dream analysis and psychoanalysis based on free-association.  Adeh!

Until next time, my dear readers. Much love and may Allah bless all of us.

Screenshot 2020-01-17 11.38.04

The Gudjonsson Suggestibility Scale & The Legendary Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali Book
The biography of Muhammad Ali, written by Alan Goldstein

#BookReview  #GudjonssonScale  #MuhammadAli

Dear readers,

Last month, I had read  a biography of The Legendary Muhammad Ali written by Alan Goldstein and Masya-Allah, I was blown away. It was a truly absorbing read and I finished reading the book in 3 days. Muhammad Ali’s life was nothing short of inspiring.

I knew that Muhammad Ali was this great boxing legend who “floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee” but in my opinion, his greatest achievement was not made in the boxing ring. There was no specific arena… no particular moment while fighting in  the ring… in which I could say “Yup, that’s it! That’s when he was at his best.”

It was just the way he led his life… the way he stayed true to what he believed regardless of what other people said about him. The way he had stuck to his gun regardless of the risks of losing his money and  fame, and even regardless of going to prison. That was some heavy-duty powerful faith there! How many people would rather be in prison rather than sacrificing their principles? These days, I assure you, not many!

float and sting

When people persecuted him for his staunch principles, he stood firm and fought back with witty words that spoke volume of his wisdom. I didn’t know before what was the big deal with Muhammad Ali. I only knew him as this great boxer who also happened to be a Muslim. To me, ah… ok fine, just another famous Muslim celebrity.(What can I say? I was never into boxing and Muhammad Ali was famous way before my time. Now, I am acutely embarrassed of my previous ignorance of this legendary persona!)

But after reading his biography, I was in awe.

I remember, whilst reading the book, that Muhammad Ali would have no problem with the Gudjonsson Scale if the test was administered to him. He would stick to his gun and to hell with what other people say to the contrary.

Want to know what I mean? Read on!

***

So what is the Gudjonsson Suggestibility Scale?  Well, this is not a very well-known test in psychiatry. When they are used, they are usually used in the forensic setting. It has been used in court cases in several jurisdictions but has been the subject of various criticisms.

I am not sure whether this scale was ever used in Malaysia. I certainly never came across it when I was doing my forensic posting.

But I had to study this scale when I was doing my Part A MRCPsych exam. I remember feeling slightly troubled when I thought of how my performance would be if the scale were administered to me.

According to Wikipedia, this scale was created in 1983 by Icelandic psychologist Gísli Hannes Guðjónsson. The Gudjonsson Suggestibility Scale consists of reading a story aloud to participants, who are then asked to recall as much as they can remember. Subsequently, participants are probed with 20 questions pertaining to the story, 15 of which are misleading. When the 20 questions have been answered, the participants are clearly and firmly given a negative feedback on their performance. Specifically, they are told that they have made a number of errors and that it is therefore necessary to repeat the questions to obtain more accurate answers. On the basis of participants answers to the misleading items, a total suggestibility score can be calculated.

I remember thinking, would I ever change my mind, even as I know that I was right, if the pressure towards me was administered just hard enough? Would I break? Or Would I bend? Would I stand straight or would I fall in heaps and pieces?

Imagine someone administering the Gudjonnsson Suggestibility Scale to you.

Let me walk you through the simplified version of the scenario (you can read the actual details on how the scale is administered in Wikipedia)

So an examiner reads you a story and after hearing the story to its conclusion, you are initially reasonably sure that you have understood the story correctly. The examiner then proceeds with asking you a few questions to test your comprehension. You are confident with all the answers you have given the first time. Then, the examiner asks you some of the questions again and again… the examiner acts as though he thinks your answers are not quite correct…. so….would you slightly alter your answers to accommodate the expectation of the examiner? If the examiner asks you repeatedly “Are you sure that was how the story goes? Are you sure? Is that REALLY what happened? Could you perhaps be mistaken?Is that REALLY how you understood the story?”…. would you then doubt yourself?

Or would you stick to your gun and say “I know what I heard. That’s how I understood the story. I could be wrong. But that was what I heard and what I understood. And I am not going to change my answers no matter how many times you question me. Period!”

Seriously, in my own experience, MOST people would accommodate expectations (subtle or non-subtle) regardless of how wrong the expectations might be or how right their answers initially were.

Heck, it happens to our politicians all the time. It takes someone with strong conviction like Tun M to oust Najib out of his political throne because everyone else around him were as fickle as the weather when it comes to speaking up for the truth and fighting for justice.

It happened to me when I was a junior doctor. It happened to many other of my colleagues. It happened to even specialists and consultants when they were dealing with their own superiors.

It happens in our ward rounds and teaching sessions ALL THE TIME. For example, you might KNOW that you have given the right answer to your specialist’s question…. but when your specialist tests you by deliberately questioning your answer (or maybe the specialist himself also did not know that you were actually correct), you would change your answer to accommodate the expectation of your specialist. And even if you don’t change your answer, you will still start to doubt yourself even as you give the same answer… but this time, your answer comes in a less convincing manner.

One of my close friends had answered correctly regarding what are the anti-depressants licensed for OCD. She rattled off “Escitalopram, Fluoxetine, Fluvoxamine, Paroxetine, Sertraline.” Her answer was correct and spot on! Of course she must have read it before doing her presentation and she should have been confident with her answer. But someone in the audience had questioned, “Are you sure Sertraline was licensed for OCD. I am not sure… but I think, Sertraline is not licensed for OCD, right?” And EVERYONE fell silent regardless of whether they are HOs, MOs, specialists or consultants. Maybe everyone was also not sure at that time and it was too easy to assume that someone who was brave enough to question the presenter must have been correct. 

But me and Dr. T…. we have this curiosity that is not easily satisfied. We used to read that Sertraline is licensed for OCD. Our Part A MRCPsych notes had a list of all meds and their licensed indication. And we kind of vaguely remembered that Sertraline is licensed for OCD but we were also not very sure when someone had questioned our friend’s answer.

By the time, me and Dr. T had finished extracting the information from the pdf version of Maudsley Guidelines and had confirmed that my friend’s list of answers were correct, the audience had moved on to a new topic of discussion.  And me and Dr. T didn’t feel like it was appropriate to point out to everyone that my friend’s answer was correct and the person who had questioned her was the one who was mistaken. I mean, people make mistakes and if we can let it go, we will let it go. But rest assured, if the CME gathering was still talking about the same topic, I would have offered the correct information for the benefit of everyone in the audience. My close friend deserves to have the credit of having given the correct answer. It is only fair for her to receive that recognition, in my opinion.

After my friend had finished her presentation, I went to her and said, “Mesti kau dah prepare sebelum present. Kau tahu kan jawapan kau betul. Just be firm and stick to your answers. Lepas ni, tak kisah siapa yang tanya…. specialist ke, consultant ke…. if we know what we know…. we stick to it!” (Bab mengajar orang suruh rebel, memang boleh bagi kat aku. Hahha)

She told me “Aku baca sekali lalu saja… takut aku tersalah.” This friend of mine is the nicest, the most humble and the least aggressive among my close circle. She is the angel to my devil. Hahha. So, I know she would willingly accept the appearance of being mistaken even when she was right. I am her exact opposite. And I think, Dr. T is also like me. When we believe we are right, we are going to question you regarding what made you question our facts in the first place? (As in, how dare you question me when you yourself are not sure! Now, face our wrath! Hahaha. Okay, just kidding.)

Look, it can happen to anyone. When an ‘authority’ questions you, you become uncertain of yourself. Most people are like that. As stubborn as I always am, even I used to be like that too when I was a HO or a junior MO.

Now, I am more certain and more confident of myself in general. Yes, I still doubt myself, but much less than I used to. If I don’t know, I will say I don’t know. BUT… If I know what I know, there is NOTHING you can say that will convince me that I was wrong. I accept only evidences and references. You must give me more than words before I will accept I was wrong. I had invested time and effort to read my academic materials to come to a conclusion of certain facts, and for you to say that I am wrong, you must give me enough reasoning and evidence for me to change my mind. I would love to learn the right thing…. but I am not suggestible. I might pretend to accept what you say just to keep the harmony… but I will not accept anybody’s dubious words at face value without doing my own research.  I will go back home and verify your answer until I am satisfied. 

But even I sometimes feel unsure whether or not I will ever be as staunch and resolute the way Muhammad Ali had been.

In his life, Muhammad Ali provoked his opponents with razor-sharp words that rhyme and comical one-liners that hurt. But what made him an iconic cultural figure was his quotes on achievement, social justice, religion and war. And what made him greatly impressive was his rock-solid stance in his principles.  

***

Why did I say Muhammad Ali would have passed the Gudjonsson Scale with flying colours?

Well, because he was the epitome of faith and belief in himself and in his religion that there is just no room for him to doubt himself on what was the right course of action. He knew what he knew and even if the whole country was against him, he would not budge.

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He held firm to his principles and his belief NOT to fight in the Vietnam War waged by the Americans towards the Viet Cong. Because he was persistent in sticking to his belief, he was exiled from boxing, ostracized by his peers and fans, and stripped of his crown as the heavyweight champion of the world. He was pressured right, left and center. People called him as a coward for refusing to fight a war he did not believe in. He lost almost everything – money, fame and reputation – and he also had to face the risk of prison for refusing to go to war… but he remained firm in his decision.

Muhammad Ali had declared himself as a conscientious objector and refused induction into the U.S army, famously saying, “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong,”. He also had said “No Viet Cong ever called me a nigger,”

vietnam war

 

He was also recorded to say, “Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go ten thousand miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?”

I am free

I especially love Muhammad Ali’s beautiful words in defending his stance: “I believe in Allah and in peace. I know where I am going and I know the truth, and I don’t have to be what you want me to be. I am free to be what I want. You can’t condemn a man for wanting peace. If you do, you condemn peace itself. A rooster crows when he sees the light. I have seen the light and I’m crowing!”

Beautiful!

But his words had upset the US Government. So, the US government then tried to send him to prison. He was put on trial and sentenced to 5 years in jail and $10,000 fine.  He was also banned from travelling and was not allowed to participate in matches outside the US. To this, he had said, “They want to stop me working, not only in this country, but out of it”. He must have suffered greatly at that time but he pushed on. 

He was 3 years in exile from boxing. And he almost had to serve his prison sentences, but fortunately, the US Supreme Court later overturned his charges. Muhammad Ali praised God on hearing the news. “I’ve done my celebrating already. I said a prayer to Allah.” 

He added, “They did what they thought was right, and I did what I thought was right.” To him, it was as simple as that.

Muhammad Ali had no higher education. He came from a poor family. But when he spoke, it was full with conviction in his faith and belief system. 

After 3 years in exile, he then resumed his boxing career after the Supreme Court had overturned the charges. Amazingly, he returned to the ring stronger than ever, winning match after match, strengthening his reputation in leaps and bounds.

History later had proven him right. Vietnam War was an embarrassing failure to the US. The US had lost the war and its veterans returned home to taunts and abuse by their own countrymen who were frustrated by the cost of the war to the US economy and to the morale of the country. Influential Hollywood celebrities started to protest the war which Muhammad Ali had condemned much earlier from the very beginning. University students had begun to protest the prolonged war with pickets and demonstrations, cementing the fact that Muhammad Ali was right not to be enlisted even at the risk of being imprisoned.

The truth had prevailed and Muhammad Ali’s wisdom had shone crystal clear and bright.

See?

As I had said, even though he was this great boxing legend of the world, his most impressive achievement was not made in the boxing ring. It was in the way he stood up for what he believed as right, no matter what!

Years later, Muhammad Ali’s name on the Walk of Fame was placed on the wall, instead of on  the ground as in the case of the rest of the other famous celebrities. I am sure, his name was supposed to be on the ground initially… but knowing Muhammad Ali, he must have insisted that his name should be placed on the wall… or NOT AT ALL. And his wish was accommodated since his name is so great that it would be preposterous and ridiculous to leave his name out of the Walk of Fame. So finally, when his name was placed on  the Walk of Fame…it was on the wall, as he had wished, instead of on the ground like the rest of the others!

 

When asked regarding why he wanted his name to be placed on the wall, he had said, “Because I don’t want the name of Muhammad to be stepped on.”

This, my dear readers, is the greatness of Muhammad Ali. May Allah be pleased with him.

Ali
May Allah be pleased with you. Amin.